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Reddit co-founder pushes hard for paternity leave

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Alexandra Olson , The Associated Press


Published Thursday, February 21, 2019 1:57PM EST

NEW YORK — Alexis Ohanian wants other guys to be jealous of him. Not because he’s a multimillionaire venture capitalist. Or because he’s married to tennis pro Serena Williams.

The Reddit co-founder wants men to covet the time he gets to spend with his 1-year-old daughter, Olympia.

The pair is all over Instagram cheering for mom at her tennis matches, making silly faces with Mickey Mouse ears and toting around favourite doll Qai Qai, who has her own Instagram account with 114,000 followers.

It’s all part of his advocacy for making paid paternity leave the new normal in America. When Olympia was born on Sept. 1, 2017, Ohanian was very public about taking the full 16 weeks of paid leave available to him at Initialized Capital, the venture capital firm he co-founded and now runs.

He wants all men in the U.S. to have that option, especially those without his privileges and resources. That includes advocating both for companies to adopt more generous family leave policies and encouraging men to take time off without fear of being stigmatized as uncommitted to their work.

“After coming back, I started hearing from Silicon Valley founders, from employees, who all said the same thing, which was that they appreciated this kind of air cover,” Ohanian said in interview with The Associated Press. “Because it meant that there was clear sign from someone who was very ambitious, very career-driven, very goal oriented, and yet I made this a priority.”

Ohanian, 35, was in New York this week to launch a two-pronged Dove Men+Care initiative to champion paternity leave.

The Unilever-owned brand started a $1 million fund for fathers with no access to paid leave through their employers. Employees who only get unpaid leave, freelancers and self-employed men are encouraged to apply for a $5,000 grant. The other initiative is a “Pledge for Paternity Leave,” asking men to commit to taking their full leave and share their experience. It asks business leaders to pledge to enact paid paternity leave policies.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not federally mandate paid parental leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, many, but not all, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child without penalty of losing their positions. It is up to employers whether to offer paid leave.

But it’s a good time to be fighting for paid leave in the U.S.

High-profile companies, fighting for talent in a tight job market, are trying to outdo each other in expanding leave for mothers and non-birth parents, with some throwing in unique perks. Amazon, for instance, pays for the spouses of employees to take time off. Global tech company Cisco System offers three days of paid time off for grandparents. Netflix allows parents to take off as much time as they want during the baby’s first year.

The prevalence of employers offering paid paternity leave rose to 29 per cent in 2018 from 21 per cent two years earlier, according to a report by the Society for Human Resources Management, which polled a randomly selected sample of its 285,000 HR professional members.

There is also increasing bi-partisan momentum for a federal paid leave mandate. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is running for president, has introduced a plan to provide workers with 12 weeks of family leave at partial pay. President Donald Trump proposed a plan in his budget this year for six weeks of paid leave.

Still, there is lingering stigma over taking leave for both women and men. A 2016 survey by consulting firm Deloitte found that 57 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women feared their employers would think them uncommitted if they took parental leave.

Ohanian said he cannot imagine how new parents cope without paid time off. Williams faced complications that left her bedridden after Olympia was born and Ohanian was able to shoulder a lot of the work because of his leave.

“With all the advantages we had, it was still a really stressful period,” Ohanian said. “I could not have showed up at work a week later, or two weeks later, knowing that my wife literally could not get herself out of bed with a 2-week-old at home. They would have had to fire me.”

Now that Olympia is a chubby-cheeked toddler and Williams is back competing for Grand Slam titles, Ohanian emphasizes the delights of fatherhood. He hopes more and more dads will do the same, saying it could almost be a good thing if fatherhood becomes an object of social media “fomo” (fear of missing out).

“Let’s be real. We are not posting photos of the 2 a.m. blow out. We are still posting those idyllic, polished moments but if we are going to use social to create ‘fomo,’ let it be for showing up for your kid,” Ohanian said.

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Nobody would give this teen with autism a job, so he started a business

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A 17-year-old Australian teen with autism started his own business cleaning garbage bins after he was rejected for other jobs.

“I searched and applied for jobs for two years and did not get one interview,” Clay Lewis told CTV News Channel from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

As of January, his business, Clay’s Bin Cleaning, has made more than AUS$6,000 and has roughly 70 clients.

He charges AUS$10 for the first bin and AUS$5 for each additional bin. He regularly offers free bin cleaning to local charities.

“I’m very proud of him,” his mother Laura Lewis told CTV News Channel. “I knew that he could do it.”

She added that employers were unable to “see past their own judgments” and made “unfair assumptions” about Clay’s competency because of his disability.

Clay said that he is looking forward to attending his high school prom and may put some of his earnings toward funding a trip to Abu Dhabi to watch his first Formula 1 race.

Lewis said that Clay’s story has given hope to a lot of people, particularly parents of children with autism.

“All Clay is doing is living a 17-year-old’s ordinary life: working, going to school, having a girlfriend and hanging out with friends,” she said.

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Meet Jelly Bean, the deaf canine contender for World’s Most Amazing Dog title

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV London’s Sacha Long


Published Friday, February 22, 2019 7:50PM EST

A deaf Ontario dog is in the semi-finals of the World’s Most Amazing Dog competition, an interactive Facebook Watch show where dogs compete for a US$100,000 prize.

Jelly Bean, a three-year-old Australian cattle dog who lives in London, Ont., can catch and pass a ball with his front paws and jump on a stranger’s back. He follows the instructions of his handler, Melissa Mellitt, by sight because cannot hear.

“He is so highly intelligent,” Mellitt told CTV London. “He has no idea that he’s deaf. He doesn’t care. He’s just as happy as any other dog.”

Mellitt adopted Jelly Bean from the Deaf Dog Rescue of America when he was five months old. He has since gone on to travel across Canada as a professional stunt dog and works with Mellitt as an assistant to help rehabilitate fearful dogs.

“We knew that he had this potential,” she said. “This is exactly what I knew he was going to be.”

Mellitt hopes that Jelly Bean’s performance in the competition will help shatter some of the stigma around deaf dogs, who are often believed to be ill tempered and incapable of being trained. Mellitt said breeders euthanize many of them at birth, but she believes that Jelly Bean’s inability to hear is his “cool factor.”

If Jelly Bean wins the competition, Mellitt said that she plans to give half of the winnings to the Deaf Dog Rescue of America.

Viewers of the World’s Most Amazing Dogs competition get to vote on who should move to the finals.

“I think he could go all the way,” Mellitt said.

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Funeral held for sailor in V-J Day Times Square kiss photo

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NEWPORT, R.I. — The sailor photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II was mourned Friday at a funeral in Rhode Island.

George Mendonsa’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, and he was buried at St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown.

Mendonsa died Sunday after he fell and had a seizure at an assisted living facility, his daughter said. He was 95 and leaves behind his wife of 72 years.

Mendonsa kissed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered.

The two had never met.

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of the kiss became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. First published in Life magazine, it’s called “V-J Day in Times Square,” but is known to most as “The Kiss.”

Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.

Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Mendonsa enlisted in the Navy in 1942, after high school. He served on a destroyer during the war.

Mendonsa was on leave when the end of the war was announced. When he was honoured at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.

On Monday, a statue depicting the kiss in Sarasota, Florida, was vandalized. The phrase “.MeToo” was spray-painted on the leg of the statue.

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.

“The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress.

She added, “It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at age 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age.

After the war, Mendonsa became a commercial fisherman, like his father, and worked until he was 82. He died two days before his 96th birthday.

Survivors include his wife, Rita; and his children, Ronald Mendonsa and Sharon Molleur, and their families.

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