Nadya Suleman wins the “Mother of the Year” award for 2009 so far with the news that in addition to the eight babies she gave birth to last week, she had previously conceived and given birth to six other kids, all through in vitro fertilization. Her own beleaguered mother recently told the press that the 33-year-old single mom has been obsessed with having babies since her teenage years and has even sought psychiatric help for her fixation, of which little is understood. Your correspondent’s own late grandmother could have, perhaps, emphathized – she gave birth to 14 kids as well, though only half survived to adulthood, and she did it the old fashioned way: one at a time.
Speaking of kids in the news, Michael Phelps may be a record-breaking Olympic champion and international icon, but he’s still just a college-(aged) kid at heart: The 23-year-old, who made a commercial appearance in Beijing last month, was recently goaded into making a public apology after photos of him taking a bong hit at a college party last November were circulated in the press and online. It’s still unclear how all this will affect his estimated USD 50 million worth of endorsements, but those marketing execs, with their ever-shrinking budgets and aversion to bad publicity, are no doubt feeling a tad paranoid themselves over this badly-timed bong hit.
Update: The Baltimore Sun cites changing societal attitudes towards pot smoking and Michael Phelp’s own contrition as the main reasons behind a perceived lack of a fallout thus far. Despite all the media attention, the “so what?” attitude of the general public thus far means that Phelps’s image and endorsements will not suffer much from the affair.
One role model whose fortunes have taken a different route is Jet Li and his philanthropic work, which is the subject of a recent Washington Post online article. The 45-year-old kung fu superstar has spent years setting up a charitable organization, the One Foundation, that recruits “the world’s rich and famous” (whose ranks include Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Jackie Chan) to “donate their time and money to help those in need in China.” Li’s One Foundation is credited with raising tens of millions of dollars to assist the victims of last May’s Sichuan earthquake and has teamed with the Chinese Red Cross to help fund initiatives for funding education, health care, environmental campaigns and eradicating poverty. Find out how to get involved here.
On a more alarming note, the LA Times reports state officials have announced that birth defects in both urban and rural areas are increasing dramatically and a major cause is “degradation of the environment.” The main culprit appears to be coal, as the regions most affected are the coal producing provinces of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia (which, unfortunately, are both just a hop, skip and a jump away from the capital). The increase has been so dramatic, that from 2001 to 2006 alone the rate of defects shot up by 40 percent and China’s family planning minister was quoted in the press as saying that “a baby is born with birth defects in China every 30 seconds.” Among the most common defects are cleft palate (as with the case of singer Wong Fei and actor Li Yapeng’s daughter), neural tube defects, extra fingers or toes, and congenital heart disease. I shudder to think if my own daughter’s torticollis, for which the cause remains unknown, might have something to do with this …