What Kills More Americans Than Car Crashes or Guns? LISTEN for the Answer

Our nation is, without a doubt, in the midst of an addiction epidemic.

Nearly 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol, making substance abuse as common as diabetes, and more prevalent than cancer. Drug overdoses killed more people in 2013 than car accidents and guns, and an alarming 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are now expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.

So how do we turn the tide against this crisis?

It starts with getting rid of people’s long-held misconceptions. For many, that means removing the shame synonymous with substance abuse.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, who today released the first-ever Surgeon General report on alcohol, drugs, and health, sums up the challenge this way: “We need to change the way we see addiction – not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that we should approach with the same determination as we do diabetes, hearth disease, and cancer.”

This issue has touched the lives of tens of millions of Americans across the country. It’s the impetus behind MTV’s powerful documentary on opioid addiction, Prescription For Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis.

And it’s why Viacom announced yesterday the launch of “LISTEN” an awareness campaign in partnership with non-profit Facing Addiction to break down the stigma of addiction, promote resources to help those struggling with substance use, and encourage people to approach America’s addiction crisis with empathy, not condemnation. As informed citizens, actively listening to others impacted by this disease is the first step toward progress.

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Viacom Ad Sales’ Greg Cantwell Leads the Stocking Stuffing Assembly Line for Manhattan’s Homeless

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Eleven years ago, Greg Cantwell had an idea.

It was Christmastime. Complaints rained around him, about the commercialization of Christmas, about the excess of presents.

So he asked himself, would anyone really care if he spent half as much on presents and put the other half toward something a little more worthy?

“I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would care, so I thought, why not just do it?”

But where to put the resources? That wasn’t so hard, as it turned out. He’d been in New York a long time. He knew how difficult conditions were for homeless people, especially around the holidays.

So he and two friends met at his apartment, and they assembled a couple dozen Christmas stockings. They stuffed them with a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, cookies, gum, candy canes, a McDonald’s gift certificate, a five dollar bill.

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Cantwell, right, stuffing an enormous pile of stockings at his Brooklyn apartment with fellow Operation Santa Claus volunteers Carlos Gonzalez and Viacom employee Judi Sadon. Photo courtesy of Operation Santa Claus

Then they threaded their way through Manhattan’s East Village and handed the parcels out to the homeless. They hit Tomkins Square Park and Washington Square Park and Avenue A and anyplace else where they could find someone who could use a little extra.

“We were astonished, the reaction we got from people,” Cantwell, a client planning director for Viacom Ad Sales, recalls. “They were just not expecting it.”

Operation Santa Claus was born.

Cantwell has repeated the effort each year since, generally on the weekend before Christmas. Planning starts a minimum of two months in advance, with a Go Fund Me page and an email blast and social media posts.

As donations accumulate, Cantwell and “Chief Elf” Luisa Alves, who works in Spike’s inventory team, coordinate to determine how many stockings they can afford and what will go in each. A mammoth trip to Costco follows. They fill four or five shopping carts. Cantwell orders the gift cards in bulk from McDonald’s.

On the designated day, Cantwell invites everyone out to his Williamsburg home for a sangria party. A mammoth assembly line snakes through his two-bedroom apartment. Dozens of volunteers drop up to 50 items in each stocking. In 2015, they assembled 250. The goal for 2016 is 300.

It’s a novel project, a flourish of goodwill and selflessness that pushes back against the relentless commercial tide of the holiday season. People have noticed. A few years ago, NBC local news in New York featured Cantwell and Operation Santa Claus in a segment:

Each year, the event grows larger. Each year, Cantwell rouses the volunteers with a speech just before they disperse across the city.

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We All Laugh the Same: Viacom Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month With Latinx Comedy Panel

Growing up, sitcoms were my main hub of comedy. I would watch shows like Everybody Loves Raymond with my Korean-American parents, who were trying to entertain themselves while expanding their English skills.

When I started working as a Viacom intern in the spring of 2016, I was exposed to a different type of comedy – political satire in the form of a mock newsroom. I had the opportunity to watch a live taping of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. This experience taught me how diverse comedy could be. Noah is mixed-race and born in South Africa, yet he’s hosting a satirical talk show on a major cable network about American politics.

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Paramount Invites Local Schoolchildren for Halloween Screening of Charlotte’s Web

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Each year, Paramount hosts a Halloween screening of its classic, Charlotte’s Web, for pajama-clad local schoolkids. This year, 1,500 children journeyed from the Santa Monica Blvd Community Charter School and the Van Ness Blend Elementary School to watch the film at the Paramount Theatre.

Paramount has actually distributed two versions of Charlotte’s Web over the decades: the first a fully animated 1973 film; the second a live-action 2006 version produced in part by Nickelodeon Movies. Take a journey back with the trailers below.

2006

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Right Around the Bend: See What Our Brands Offer for the Final Days of Election Coverage

It’s time.

While you wait in line to cast your vote, check out what MTV, BET, and Comedy Central are doing to represent their diverse audiences with unique media coverage of one of the most memorable elections in U.S. History.
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An Empathetic Walk With Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion

When the virtual reality headset first slid into place, covering my eyes and resting on the bridge of my nose, there was a moment of calm darkness. Then the screen glowed, coming to life, and there stood Grace Chikui, an elderly blind woman and long-time resident of the Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) hosted a unique virtual reality (VR) experience aptly named Walking With Grace, which used 360° video and spatial audio to provide employees with unparalleled perspective into the life of someone differently-abled.

“Through select audio interviews, Grace recalls childhood memories growing up in the area, helping us discover her neighborhood. Each swivel of the head and body, left, right, backward and even up toward the sky, revealed more of her world.”

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Walking With Grace gave Viacom employees the chance to see the world through the eyes of somebody with a visual impairment.

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Why “He Didn’t Mean It” Has Got to Go

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We’ve all heard the excuses.

“Well, he was drunk.”

“But he’s such a nice guy.”

“He didn’t mean it.”

But they don’t excuse anything. For survivors of sexual violence, these words – their stubborn, insistent existence – only exasperates the pain.

But:

“He said he was sorry.”

“It was just a misunderstanding.”

“It only happened once.”

So what can be done? After all, boys will be boys. Right?

“It’s none of my business.”

“This is a women’s issue.”

“Yeah, no, we don’t talk about that.”

Right?

“We’re never gonna change it.”

“It’s sad, but, um, we’re never gonna fix it.”

The Joyful Heart Foundation does not believe that we will never fix this. That a culture that excuses rape and sexual assault is normal. That there are any excuses left. That boys will just always be boys, and what boys will be is dismissive, aggressive, willful, and, ultimately, excused.

The organization believes that we have had “Enough.” In a powerful new PSA campaign of the same name, produced in conjunction with Viacom Velocity, the organization commandeers these vile but pervasive words and challenges men to actively transform how we view and talk about sexual assault.

They brought company. Joyful Heart founder Mariska Hargitay, who also stars on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, rallied her costars and many other public figures to stand up against this archaic language: Andre Braugher, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Edwards, Blair Underwood, Chris Meloni, Daniel Dae Kim, Dann Florek, Danny Pino, Dave Navarro, David Marciano, Ice-T, Nick Lachey, Peter Hermann, Raul Esparza and Tate Donovan.

The series of PSAs, which will air across MTV, VH1, TV Land, BET, and Spike, among other Viacom properties, is a bold challenge to men: let’s change how we talk about this, so we can, some day, end it.

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MTV Votes Down Discrimination and Inequality With a Wall We Can All Get Behind

MTV’s Elect This campaign is all about letting the voters do the talking. Social justice, national security, healthcare and the economy, climate change, and immigration and refugees are what MTV’s millennial voters are talking about.

The latest campaign, Beyond the Wall, highlights one major issue—immigration rights and reform.

In a final push to stir the conversation and provide a platform for these issues, the network built a massive interactive video installation in New York City’s Herald Square. The 10-foot by 35-foot wall evokes imagery of the Berlin Wall with barbed wire and graffiti emblazoned on its mock-concrete façade.

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“What kind of country do you want to live in? One that builds walls or tears them down?” – MTV’s Elect This Campaign. Photo courtesy of MTV.

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Nick Gives Assistance Dog Group a Canine Companion of Its Own

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Canine Companions for Independence does all kinds of awesome things.

They gave an assistance dog to a quadriplegic girl so she wouldn’t have to call a family member to pick up dropped or needed items around her. They connected 10-year-old Matthias with Aubrey, a similar companion, to ease him through the complex and ongoing battery of appointments necessary to deal with his rare genetic disorder. And they provided wheelchair-bound student Savannah with the nuzzling attention she needs to get through the daily obstacle of hour-long medical procedures.

And they do it all for free.

To bolster that incredible work, the organization is getting a canine companion of its own: the pups of Nickelodeon’s hit show Paw Patrol. The partnership will begin with a variety of events around the country this fall, along with this PSA, which will air across Nick Jr.’s digital properties:

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A Closed Fist Gets You Nothing: Nickelodeon’s Gerald Yarborough Finds a Path to His Dreams

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“Follow your dreams. Do what you want to do. Don’t screw up.”

These were among the last words Gerald Yarborough’s mother had spoken to him before she passed away, and they had been his motivation through his adult life. It was late 1998, and he was a freshman at St. John’s University, settling into his studies as a pharmacy major. He had everything lined up: a five-year scholarship with a good-paying job in a high-demand field likely upon graduation. Yet, his mother’s directive was persistent.

He was not following his dreams. He was not living his purpose. He felt this more strongly every day. Pharmaceuticals just wasn’t for him. He felt as though he was wasting his true gift: art.

So that is where he focused his full energies: his art electives. But after one year, St. John’s warned him that if he did not start taking sciences courses, he would lose his scholarship.

His mother’s simple proclamation gnawing at him, uncertain where to go, he left school instead of falling into debt with student loans. He told himself that if art was his true purpose in life, God would make a way. It appeared as though school was no longer in his plan. So he joined Geico, working in customer service.

He would spend the next three years there. But those last words from his mother hung with him, refusing to let his dreams dry up.

While he once struggled to find his purpose in school, Gerald Yarborough now devotes time to helping others see their own potential.

While he once struggled to find his purpose in school, Gerald Yarborough now devotes time to helping others see their own potential.

Helping others find their dreams

His name was Jonathan.

Gerald had met him at Nassau County Correctional Facility. They had encountered one another there many times before, Jonathan as the inmate, Gerald a visitor.

“I was doing good until somebody called the cops,” Jonathan would say.

“If you wouldn’t have been doing that, nobody would have called the police,” Gerald would counter.

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