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Addiction Among Us

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I’m learning a lot about addiction now that I’m working on a project for the Betty Ford Center Children’s Program.  I’m learning about the impact alcohol and drug abuse have on kids when there is addiction in the home.  I’m also learning that there is hope that a family can escape the clutches of addiction.  Healing is possible with the right kind of help.  According to the Surgeon General one in seven people in the U.S. will develop a substance disorder at some point but only one in ten will get help.  That’s a lot of people suffering and a lot of children affected by the chaos.

“It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy in his report. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”  The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has viewed addiction through this lens since it’s inception.  The Betty Ford Center Children’s Program helps kids ages 7 to 12 separate the disease from those that they love and understand it is not their fault when their grown ups are trapped by addiction.  Children who are the first hurt do not have to be the last helped.  Kate Snow with NBC Nightly News did a story recently to show the good the program does.

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How to Live Forever

Want to live to be a thousand years old? It’s not far fetched at all if you ask theoretician and geneticist Aubrey de Grey. He believes within the next 25 years there is a 50/50 chance we’ll have the technologies to extend human life indefinitely. I learned of Aubrey and his ideas in 2005 and immediately pitched the story to NBC’s Today Show. They were intrigued. With the help of correspondent Kerry Sanders and the London bureau, we went out and interviewed Aubrey in a pub in Cambridge. When we finished the story we sent it in to the show. It was promptly killed. Too out there for a mainstream audience. Plus it didn’t help that Aubrey looked like Methuselah.

Aubrey de Grey at his SENS Foundation laboratory in Mountain View, CA.

Fast forward to 2011 and there Aubrey was in the news again.  This time I pitched the story to HDNet’s World Report. The program is always looking for stories that deal with interesting issues and are not widely told. This time correspondent Willem Marx met up with Aubrey in a pub in Cambridge and also went punting with him on the Thames River. For my part, I finally got to meet Aubrey at his SENS Foundation laboratory in Mountain View, California. He is tall and wiry and moves like someone with no time to lose.  He lovingly strokes the beard which hangs almost to his waist. I asked him if his distinctive look helped or hurt him as he went out in the world trying to win over scientists and venture capitalists to support his work. He said it helped because people looked at him and saw a guy who is not materialistic in the least. It’s very clear to them that he is not doing this to get rich.

Through his SENS Foundation non-profit, Aubrey and the scientists who work with him are creating an intersection between research on the biology of aging and regenerative medicine. By doing experiments with the building blocks of cells they hope to someday develop treatments that repair the damage caused by aging, and restore people to a state where they are biologically younger than they were when they started. In other words, people could live out their entire lives as healthy as young adults. Five years ago, the scientific community considered his ideas kind of kooky but now the research is catching up with his theories and Aubrey is gaining credibility. “This is not science fiction anymore, this is science forseeable,” Aubrey proclaims.

Of course the implications are mind boggling but Aubrey brushes them off. “People always say hang on. If we stop the problem of aging we’re going to have a whole lot of other problems. We’re going to have overpopulation or dictators who live forever, or how will we have the pensions, or won’t it be boring. If I want to be flippant, I say those are problems I’d like to have, thank you very much. Ultimately I don’t see people who want to get cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or cardiovascular disease or Type 2 Diabetes or any of these things we are going to prevent by curing aging. I don’t meet people who want any of those things so I find it frustrating when people take the view we’re going to create the problems and refuse to adopt any sense of proportion about this and accept the problem we have today is a big one, a problem that kills 100,000 people every day, most of them after a long period of ill health and disease and debilitation and dependence and decrepitude. It’s pretty clear that the problem we would solve is quite a big one, and yes, the transition to a post aging world is going to be a big one, and the more forward planning we do to make it less turbulent the better, but the transition to the industrial revolution was pretty turbulent too, yet there aren’t many people who believe the industrial revolution was a mistake.”

If you want to learn more about Aubrey de Grey and his work and vision tune in to HDNet’s World Report on Tuesday, May 17th at 9 p.m. ET/7 p.m. MT.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.


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Serengeti Highway: Going the Wrong Way

A plan by the government of Tanzania to build a road through the pristine Serengeti is so misguided, especially when there are other options for commerce. To put a busy road through one of the last untouched spaces on earth is a crime. Thank you Richard Engel of NBC for exploring the subject and to NBC’s Today Show for giving him the time to tell the story.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40817595#40817595

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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War and Remembrance 4

Part 4 in the dialogue between me and Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina following my Veterans Day post.

Hi Mr. Coker,

I’m enjoying our dialogue.  I am not the student of history that you are but as a television news producer and international traveler I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on current events.  I would like to address your question on whether we should turn our heads from those who are being oppressed, maimed and killed throughout the world.  Absolutely not!  I personally know the cost of the Holocaust.  My family died in it.  But should we send in armies every time we perceive a threat or injustice?  I don’t think so.  Clearly after 9-11 we had to get tough and go after those who violated us and killed so many of our citizens.  I remember watching NBC’s Today Show on the morning of the attack and telling my then 7 year old son (the subject of the Veterans Day post) that we were going to war.  It was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.  We had to strike back.  But have we really done anything to beat down radical Islam?  We may have disorganized the extremists and driven them into caves, but they’re not going away and in the process we have alienated many moderate, peace loving Muslims throughout the world.

I’m thinking Greg Mortenson who is building schools in the remote reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan is doing as much if not more good than our armies. Instead of battling with guns, Mortenson is fighting so children will grow up educated and be able to look the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the eye and say this is not for me.  So many of the people in the world who become radicalized do so because they have no opportunities or hope for a future.  Our armies may be holding the line but I think we need systemic changes in those countries to beat down oppression.  That is when women and children will be better off.  Our armies, and George Bush, may have kept another attack from American soil, but we shouldn’t forget the work of Laura Bush who went to Afghanistan to champion women’s rights and education there.  This may be very Pollyanna of me and I’m not saying we don’t need war, but I think we need diplomacy and peace more.  Eagerly awaiting your thoughts.  Best, Vicky

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

 


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BeadforLife on 9News

Thanks Bazi Kanani of Denver’s 9News for doing this wonderful story about the income generating project, BeadforLife.  If you would like to host a bead party visit http://beadforlife.org.  The organization is on its way to booking 100 parties in 100 days.  It’s time and money very well spent and the women of Uganda will rain blessings down on you for helping their families rise up from poverty.

http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=157154&catid=188

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

 

 


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NBC Assignment Editor Wins Mega Millions Lottery

How good is this!  KNBC overnight assignment editor Jacki Cisneros and her laid off husband Gilbert Cisneros win the Mega Millions Lottery.  They spoke this morning to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on NBC’s Today Show from the Burbank studios after winning $266 million.  Gilbert bought his lottery tickets at L & L Hawaiian Barbeque in Los Angeles, one of my favorite places.  After they won she went to work, he went to church and they said they are going to share their good fortune with charities.       

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/36982755/ns/today-today_people/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Why I Work at the Olympics

My 16 year old son is mad at me.  When I call home his anger is palpable.  He does not understand why I leave home for extended periods of time every couple of years to work at the Olympics.  He won’t listen when I try to explain so I’m putting it out to the world.  Being part of a production team at the Olympics is, well, like being an Olympian.  This is a pinnacle in broadcasting and all of my colleagues aspire to work at the games.  It is a global coming together of the best television professionals from around the world.  Every couple of years we rekindle old friendships and make new ones and try to fit in a beer here and there.  We learn the state of the art and the latest technologies.  We work around the clock in a pressure cooker.  Are we having any fun yet?  Hell, yes.  The work that is done to bring viewers the Olympics is nothing short of extraordinary.  We challenge ourselves to acheive feats in broadcasting that are remarkable and inspiring.  It is our Olympics too.  It always stuns me that years of planning and so much money and effort go into just 17 days.  Olympics transcend sports and for those of us lucky to be a part of the games, it is completely addicting.  It is a very unique culture. 

The other thing that makes me want to come back year after year is the way the Olympics inspire communities.  Today all Canadians are walking a bit taller, all decked out in red, for the start of the games.  You sense the pride and anticipation in Vancouver.  Low key Canada is showcasing what makes it special.  It’s enlightening to know how much talent it has given to the world.  And not to be all rah rah about Canada but this country has taken advantage of this moment, not just to offer meaningless apologies to its first nations, but to partner with them in the Olympics.  You will see in the opening ceremonies how the native Canadians are honored.  It is an unprecedented peace.  I might be a bit pollyanna here but I am also still inspired by the idea that the Olympics can foster understanding around the world.  Bring nations together and let young warriors hammer it out on the playing field.  Win for the country then shake hands and hug and if you don’t win at least you participated and made your people proud.

At the end of all this we are completely spent and wondering how we could possibly do this again.  Then we go home to our families and catch up with our sleep and as the next games are a year and a half away we are getting back in touch with our associates and raising our hands again.  I have been producing television for 30 years and I am still on fire about the Olympics.  This morning when I was watching NBC’s Today Show kick off its coverage of the games and I heard the Olympic fanfare I got all choked up.  The Olympics are here.  Let the games begin!  Get the party started.  And Kyle, if you are reading this, that’s why your mom is here.

For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Haiti Earthquake: Telling the Story

Woman in Rubble of Haiti Earthquake

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times are doing a great job reporting a backstory in Haiti.  Their journalists are telling how broadcast and cable news handled the incredible logistics of deploying their people to Port Au Prince to cover the story.  This is not to diminish the role of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and cell phones, but to get people like Anderson Cooper of CNN, Brian Williams of NBC and Katie Couric of CBS, along with their entourages, to a country with no infrastructure and then see them on the air within 24 hours after the disaster is an incredible feat.  I am watching my friend Kerry Sanders, who is based in Miami for NBC News, cover this story and it looks like he is taking this disaster personally.  Through exhausted eyes and a sick heart, he is reporting about a country and people he cares about deeply.  In one poignant report he said “this city is now the saddest place on Earth.”

What strikes me about the comments following these articles is the vitriol and nastiness aimed at these first responders.  Sure these are the “celebrities” of the networks but they go because this is a story of such tremendous magnitude and their reporting is touching people who are in turn helping to open the floodgates of aid to Haiti at this most terrible time.  I am shocked that anyone would be critical of these efforts.  They are allowing all of us to bear witness and stay informed.  They are moving us to reach for our wallets when we are powerless to do anything else.  Who cares if the broadcasts are rough?  Who cares if Al Roker is doing the weather from the tarmac?  He is also interviewing the people from all over the world who are arriving to roll up their sleeves.  Why shouldn’t Ann Curry be desperately trying to get on a chopper?  Why shouldn’t she rush to the scene along with rescuers and NGOs to cover one of the greatest catastrophes ever?  They’re not getting in the way.  They’re making sure the Haitian people are not forgotten.  I wish I was there with them.  Get real, people.     

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-haiti-media14-2010jan14,0,3499947.story

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/worlds-news-media-enters-port-au-prince/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Meeting Aron Ralston

Aron Ralston

It’s hard to wrap your head around what Aron Ralston had to do in a slot canyon in Utah in 2003.  While hiking he dislodged a boulder and his arm was pinned beneath the huge rock for six days.  To escape certain death he amputated his own arm then rappelled down a 65 foot wall and hiked eight miles before he found help.  The act of courage sent him into the stratosphere of fame and inspiration and earned him a spot on Today’s “Buzziest Stories of the Decade.”  Six years later he is married, house hunting in Boulder, Colorado and expecting a son around Valentine’s Day.  His story, which he chronicled in the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, is the subject of an upcoming movie by “Slumdog Millionaire” director, Danny Boyle.  Ralston told NBC Today Show host, Meredith Vieira, “I especially like talking to groups about responsibility and being the author of your life.  We get to create this life, and I think that our mental mindset is a lot of what goes into that, seeing things that could have been a tragedy, and seeing them as a blessing and maximizing the opportunities that come.” 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34324703#34324703

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com


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Blair and the Balloon Boy

Balloon Boy Media Circus

Balloon Boy Media Circus

My 11 year old son, Blair, wanted to go to Cirque du Soleil this year, but because our schedules were so busy, we missed it.  Instead he went to the Balloon Boy media circus.  Because my husband was traveling and I was a single mom over the weekend I didn’t want to leave him at home while I was working 24/7 for NBC News.  Instead I took him with me and put him to work.  We have not seen a story like this in Colorado since John Mark Carr claimed he killed Jonbenet Ramsey.  News media came from all over the world.  There were London newpapers, two Brazilian networks, Japanese TV and tabloid shows.  Booking for guests was knock down drag out competitive.  At one point there were 20 cameras and nine live trucks outside the Heene house.  There was even a fistfight when an irate neighbor got into it with Fox News.  It was a total zoo.

To review, Richard and Mayumi Heene from Fort Collins, Colorado launched a flying saucer and alerted the media and authorities that their six year old son, Falcon, was aboard.  The whole world watched and prayed for the little boy tumbling in the sky as the drama unfolded on television.  Across the globe people celebrated the joyous news when Falcon was found alive, hiding in the attic all along.  Then whoops!  Falcon blurts out on CNN’s Larry King Live that he was hiding “because you said it was for the show.”  He threw up the next morning on NBC’s Today Show.  Sheriff Jim Alderden now says it was all a hoax so that the family could get a reality show of their own.  Unlikely that will happen any more but they could get jail time for felony charges.  Attorney David Lane is on the case.  The Heene’s certainly are infamous now.   

Initially, my son Blair hoped to meet young Falcon.  That didn’t happen and in the end he was an extra set of eyes on the Heene’s back yard and the Larimer County Sheriff’s back door.  He helped get the crews lunch, hung out with onlookers and media and even videotaped on his camera.  At one point he told a neighbor friend of the Heene’s “he was digging up dirt for his mom.”  Ouch!  Out of the mouths of babes.  We had to have the talk about discretion after the same neighbor told me it was tacky.  Blair went home from “take your kid to work day” with a better view of the intensity and insanity that comes with a huge story.  He even got interviewed for Entertainment Tonight!

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.