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U.S. News Archive
June 07 - June 13, 2000





This page contains news for the period June 07, 2000 through June 13, 2000.


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Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Step-dads are usually good fathers

A story published today by Reuters health reports that a new study shows that most American stepfathers have earned thanks from their step-kids, because they are much more involved in raising these children than commonly thought. Many of these step-dads are not married to their current partner, part of an unmarried family with kids.

The report says that stepfathers spend about the same amount of money and almost as much time with their pre-teen stepchildren as they do with their birth children.

"Stepfathers actually have a very poor reputation--that they're not doing much, and are associated with a lot of negative outcomes for children.... But stepfathers are helping raise kids, they're not just freeloaders who are uninvolved and uninterested," Kermyt Anderson, an anthropologist and research fellow at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.

Anderson conducted two studies. The first focused on stepfathers themselves, and was based on an analysis of data that had been collected since 1968 concerning 5,409 marriages. Of these marriages, 686--nearly 13%--involved men who married women who already had children with other partners. Anderson reported that these men were more likely to have been divorced, have children of their own, and have lower levels of education and income.

The first study found that having stepchildren may affect a stepfather's lifetime fertility levels and the likelihood of his having children with a new spouse. He noted that having one or two stepchildren did not affect fertility, and that these stepfathers were just as likely as men with no stepchildren to have more children within the new marriage. However, fathers raising three or more stepchildren were less likely to have more children. These men often marry later and spend fewer years being married, which may affect their chances of fathering children, Anderson noted.

In the second study conducted at the University of New Mexico, Anderson examined the effect stepfathers have on their stepchildren. The researcher looked at 1,300 men and categorized their children into four groups: genetic children of current spouse; genetic children of former spouse; stepchildren of current spouse; and stepchildren of former spouse.

He found that the money stepfathers spent on education, clothing, hobbies, allowances, medical expenses and gifts for their current stepchildren under the age of 17 was almost equal to the amount spent on their genetic children from a prior relationship. Also, Anderson noted that the men spent the most money overall on their genetic children of current mates and the least amount on their stepchildren from prior relationships. Additionally, he pointed out that for older children between 18 and 24, stepfathers actually spend more on stepchildren of current mates than on genetic children of former mates.

Anderson also found a difference in the amount of time men spent with children aged 5 to 12 of different groups--with 20 hours a week spent with genetic children of current mates, 16 hours with stepchildren and 10 hours with genetic children of prior relationships. He noted, however, that legal restrictions and arrangements may affect the leeway men have when deciding the amount of time and money they would wish to spend with children from the various groups.

Previous studies have shown that many stepfamilies involve unmarried couples where one of the partners has had children in a previous relationship.

Federal grants given to Fatherhood Movement groups

A story published today in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that when the Father Factor Program opens its doors in Brooklyn this summer, officials hope scores of young dads will attend weekly support meetings, bring their kids to family activities and turn to the resource center for job and educational opportunities.

Proponents in Congress of such assistance are relying on this pilot program and others like it to help young fathers become better parents.

Armed with a new federal grant and private funding, the Father Factor Program is among nearly a dozen community projects nationwide that are designed to help young fathers do their part in raising their children. The grant from the Department of Health and Human Services is one of several federal and congressional initiatives to boost funding for such programs.

Earlier this year, the department approved a method to fund pilot programs and awarded $15 million over three years to fatherhood programs in 10 states, including the Father Factor Program.

In the aftermath of a 1996 law that overhauled welfare, and amid a growing national "fatherhood movement,'' some members of Congress, community leaders and fathers rights advocates are pushing proposals to help unwed fathers better support their children, many of whom once were part of the nation's welfare system.

"Given the success of welfare reform in helping women . . . we realized that we were missing a terrific opportunity to do the same thing for fathers,'' said Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., who recently reintroduced a measure to fund demonstration projects.

Johnson's bill, however, faces strong opposition from the National Organization for Women. And so far, few lawmakers have taken up the charge in the Senate.

Johnson's measure, the "Fathers Count Act,'' would fund groups that encourage low-income fathers to marry their children's mother, improve their parenting skills and get a job. The bill, reintroduced last month as part of a child support measure, passed in the House last year, but died in the Senate.

Proponents acknowledge language in the bill to "promote marriage'' is a sticking point, but remain optimistic about its chances of passing this year.

But NOW officials, who vow to fight the measure, argue it promotes marriage as a "one-size-fits-all solution to poverty'' and could have adverse effect by pushing some women back into abusive marriages.


Monday, June 12, 2000

Big brothers, sisters needed for kids in Arizona's single-parent homes

A story published today by the Arizona Daily Star reports that more than a quarter of Arizona's households with children are headed up by single parents.

Many single parents struggle to make ends meet and may work odd, long hours or more than one job to provide food, clothing and shelter. Some of these parents do not have support from extended family members.

Children in single-parent families are more likely to have unsupervised free time, says Linda Lopez, clinical supervisor for the Child-Family Center of La Frontera Center Inc., a community-based behavioral health association.

Unsupervised free time puts kids at a higher risk for using drugs or drinking alcohol, gang involvement and early sexual activity, Lopez says.

And if a mother winds up with abusive boyfriends along the way, she says, her children learn that men are domineering, and rely on aggression and foul language to solve their problems. "Kids learn more from what they see than from what we tell them," says Lopez.

That's why positive role models - whether they are parents, relatives, teachers or mentors - are critical to reducing those risks, Lopez says.

Two local programs - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson Inc. and One-On-One Partners - provide free outings for kids. Baseball games, picnics and swimming are just some of the activities. Mentors take children to movies, bicycling and to amusement parks.

A national study in 1995 showed 46 percent of children who had mentors, compared with their peers, were less likely to start using drugs, and 27 percent were less likely to start drinking, Lanham says.

National studies of youths with troubled backgrounds have shown that the most resilient - those who grow up to thrive despite a tough childhood - are those who had a caring adult in their lives.

Studies compare longevity of married and singles

A story published today in the Los Angeles Times reports that getting married may lengthen the lives of single men.

Many studies study have concluded that if you want to stretch out your golden years, getting hitched isn't a bad idea. While both men and women appear to gain psychological benefits when they acquire a wedding band, getting married actually improves a man's physical health too.


A 1992 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology followed more than 3,300 middle-aged Dutch men for a decade. In the end, unmarried guys were 70% more likely to be dead than married men. They were more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack.
A few years later, British researchers also found that unmarried guys had a greater risk of dying young when they tracked 8,000 men for 11 years. Men who became divorced during the course of the study were four times more likely to die than men who stayed married.
A 1998 Danish study found that men with colon cancer survive longer if they're married. And last year, Canadian researchers found that elderly people who are married are far less likely to suffer from dementia or to be institutionalized than unmarried people.

What's the reason? Could part of the problem be that single men behave badly--and pay the ultimate price? Well, yes, says University of Chicago sociologist Linda J. Waite.

"Men do really badly single," says Waite, coauthor, with Maggie Gallagher, of "The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier & Better Off Financially," to be published by Doubleday in September. Some bachelors take perfectly good care of themselves, she concedes, but even more drink too much, mess around with drugs, eat junky food and engage in other unhealthy habits.

After marriage, "men clean up their acts," Waite says, "because their wives insist on it."

Waite refers to ongoing research at the University of Michigan that follows men and women after they graduate from high school and tracks them until age 32, studying their marital status and lifestyle. The study shows that unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drinking and drug abuse, are far more common among men who remain single. "Women create structure for men," says Waite, who has been married to the same man for 28 years.

Having someone to come home to promotes a healthy routine, she believes. "If a man is married, he's more likely to be home at 6:30 every night, even if he's the one making dinner."

Waite says that marriage also provides both men and women with a key psychological benefit: someone to talk to when you're upset or anxious. Simply having a person who'll listen--or at least pretend to listen--when you blow off steam lowers stress levels, she says.

Evidence suggests that chronically high stress levels raise blood pressure and weaken the immune system, in addition to causing other health problems. So if you're doing more shouting than talking with your spouse, staying married may harm your health more than help it.

But having a spouse appears to be less critical for women. That because single women, whether never married, divorced or widowed, are more likely to seek out other women for social support. Solo males, however, are less likely to get together and talk about difficult feelings.

She adds that there's no way of knowing whether being in a committed relationship improves health for gay men and lesbians, since the studies haven't been done.

According to Waite, research shows that most unmarried heterosexual couples who cohabit don't provide one another with the same level of psychological support enjoyed by their married friends--unless they get engaged, that is.

More poor teens in Alabama will get birth control

A story published today in the Sun Heraldn reports that birth control will soon become available to more Mississippi teens from poor families, part of the state's effort to bring down the out-of-wedlock birth rate.

A law authorizing additional family planning services is among hundreds approved by the 2000 Legislature that take effect July 1. Legislators agreed to expand Medicaid coverage for yearly checkups and birth control.

''Anytime you can prevent a child from being born who shouldn't be born you've saved your state, your society a lot of potential trouble and expense,'' said Rep. Steve Holland, author of the law.

About 45 percent of new mothers in Mississippi are single.

Holland, D-Plantersville, said the state will ''hopefully spend a dollar today to save thousands of dollars over the next 15 years.''

Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Family Council, said the free birth control ''may create a false sense of security that may lead to more sexual activity outside of marriage . . . perpetuate the notion that sex outside of marriage can be free of consequences.'' He said the change may not affect the teen pregnancy rate.

Eligibility is based on a family's income, and the new law lowers the threshold. The state Department of Health will offer the services, as will health-care providers that accept Medicaid.

Kay Bender, deputy state health officer, said about 100,000 females get those services now from the Health Department.

With the change, about 160,000 people, including nearly 70,400 teens, should be eligible for birth control, including the injectable drug Depo-Provera.


Sunday, June 11, 2000

House votes to phase out death tax; final passage may be linked to minimum wage hike

A story published today in the Bergen Record reports that Republicans scored a big victory on one of their signature issues Friday when the House of Representatives voted to repeal the tax on inherited wealth, 279-136, but the legislation still faces a hard road in the Senate.

The bill would repeal the so-called "death tax" on estates, a World War I-vintage tax on stocks, bonds, property, and other inherited wealth.

Republicans said the measure was necessary to help farmers and small business owners turn their legacies over to their children. Many Democrats denounced the bill as a giveaway to the rich, and President Clinton has threatened to veto it. Even so, 65 Democrats voted for repeal, and no Republican opposed it.

Estates worth $675,000 are exempt from the tax, as are transfers of any amount from one spouse to another. However, an unmarried person who dies and leaves similar assets to a domestic partner, a child, or a close friend, will have the estate taxed.

Estates valued at $5 million or more account for about half of the $30 billion in estate taxes collected each year. The bill would phase out the tax over 10 years, costing the Treasury an estimated $104 billion in revenue.

The measure faces major hurdles in the Senate, where it is exceedingly difficult to pass tax measures without bipartisan cooperation.

To counter charges that the estate tax is unfair, Democrats offered an alternative proposal that would have slashed the rates by 20 percent. It was defeated 196-222.

In a letter to House Republicans on Thursday, Clinton said he supported the Democratic alternative and would veto the GOP-backed bill.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., a member of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax legislation, said he thinks Republicans will have to compromise with Clinton. They might have to accept a small reduction in estate tax rates in exchange for something the president wants, such as a proposed $1 increase in the minimum wage, which is bottled up in a House-Senate conference committee.

"It will be just a very modest step [on estate taxes] as part of the minimum-wage legislation," Upton said. "That's the best we can hope for."

To see the results of the roll call vote on H.R. 8, click here.


Thursday, June 9, 2000

House expected to pass bill phasing out death taxes

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that although inheritance taxes affect the families of only about 2 percent of all Americans who die and many are quite wealthy, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are responding to farmers and small business owners who have been lobbying for the repeal of death taxes.

The House today is expected to vote overwhelmingly to gradually repeal the estate tax by 2010 using an estimated $105 billion in surplus dollars. President Clinton has threatened a veto over the cost -- roughly $50 billion a year after full repeal takes effect -- but sponsors, including at least 46 Democrats, are hoping a big majority vote might persuade the president otherwise.

Under current law, the federal government can take up to 60 percent of a large estate in federal taxes. Transfers from one spouse to another are exempt, thus creating a major "marriage bonus" in the federal tax law.

"It's wrong for the government to steal a family's legacy,'' said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. "It's not about money at all.''

Clinton, in a letter Thursday to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said he could support "targeted, fiscally responsible legislation to make the estate tax fairer, simpler, and more efficient.''

He said he favored a Democratic alternative, but was willing to work with the GOP leadership to find an acceptable bill. But, he added, ``If you send me a bill to completely repeal the estate tax, I will veto it rather than risk the fiscal progress that has contributed to the longest economic expansion in history.''

Almost half of estate tax revenue is paid from a small number of estates worth $5 million and up. Only a tiny fraction of farms and small businesses pay the tax because of generous exemptions -- $675,000 this year for individuals, $1.3 million for farms and small businesses -- but the stories of people like Sincavage has made the issue irresistible in an election-year Congress.

It is also a priority for many black and Hispanic lawmakers, who say their constituents fear the tax would threaten businesses they are now trying to build.

"You do have a number of small business people, ranchers, farmers, who are trying to pass their farm or their business to the next generation without paying a high tax. I sympathize with them,'' said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.

Many Democrats say the Republican bill goes too far, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in America in the name of the little guys. They are proposing an alternative that would cost far less -- about $22 billion over 10 years -- and would gear tax relief more directly to family farms and small businesses. It would also cut estate tax rates by 20 percent in 2001.

"Our bill does much more for family farms and small businesses,'' said Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas.

But supporters of complete repeal say the Democratic version would only provide modest relief from a tax that a wide majority of Americans oppose, according to public opinion polls.

"We want to do much more than just take the steam out of repealing the death tax,'' said Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., a prime sponsor along with Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn. ``We want to get rid of it.''

There is support for estate tax repeal in the Senate, but GOP leaders say the measure would likely have to be combined with several other tax measures and brought up under special rules that prevent unrelated amendments from being attached.

The bill is H.R. 8.

Texas appeals court invalidates state sodomy law

A story published today by Reuters reports that a Texas appeals court on Thursday declared the state's

ban on homosexual conduct a violation of the Texas constitution and overturned the conviction of two Houston men arrested in their own bedroom in September 1998.

John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, who spent a night in jail after their arrest, were each fined $200 under the Texas sodomy law which prohibits oral and anal sex between same-sex partners.

But the 14th Court of Appeals overturned their convictions, ruling that the law discriminated against homosexuals because heterosexual couples were free to engage in the same activities.

The Harris County District Attorney's office said it would probably ask for a review of the case by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court in criminal matters.

The 14th Court of Appeals said the sodomy law was at odds with the 1972 equal rights amendment to the Texas constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, regardless of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.

Sodomy laws, outlawing anal and oral sex, were once in force across all 50 U.S. states but have been repealed or struck down by courts in a growing number of states starting in the 1960s.

Today 12 states have sodomy laws that apply to both heterosexual and homosexual couples Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

In addition to Texas, three states have sodomy laws that apply only to homosexual couples Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860 but amended it in 1974 so that it applied only to same-sex partners. Prosecutions had been rare in recent years.


Wednesday, June 7, 2000

People in their twenties not so interested in marriage

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Americans in their 20s are not anxious to marry, according to a study that found young adults are choosing casual sex over courtship and matrimony.

The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Brunswick surveyed never-married men and women ages 21 through 29 in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and northern New Jersey for its new study, "Sex Without Strings, Relationships Without Rings.''

The study, released Tuesday, was based on results of separate "focus group'' interviews of men and women -- about 10 to 12 of each gender -- who also filled out questionnaires. The numbers are not statistically representative of that population, but a larger study is planned for next year, said David Popenoe, co-director of the project.

"We put this out as a special report because the material seemed so compelling,'' said Popenoe, a Rutgers sociology professor.

Rutgers chose to interview adults who weren't college students or graduates because that demographic represents about 75 percent of the population, Popenoe said.

The study found nearly identical goals among men and women in their 20s: achieving financial independence, buying a home before marriage, and delaying marriage indefinitely.

"They tend to look at marriage not as a wealth-building thing, but as an economic risk'' because of the high costs associated with divorce, Popenoe said.

The focus groups found that among those in their late 20s, though, there was a difference. Men still wanted the single life. Women were getting more serious about finding a husband, the study found, but more disenchanted about their chances of landing a good one.

"The women were very pessimistic and they had grown very distrustful of men,'' Popenoe said.

One reason he suggested was that the women were more sure of themselves, but the men surveyed were more immature and less goal-oriented.

Participants were more likely to see personal satisfaction as the purpose of marriage, not raising children together. Many of the men did not want any children, and both men and women said having children outside of marriage was acceptable.

The study also found that participants were likely to idealize marriage -- despite regarding it as difficult work -- and support marriage preparation as a good way to prevent unhappy marriages and divorce.

"Although the study participants expect their future marriages to last a lifetime and to fulfill their deepest emotional and spiritual needs, they are involved in a mating culture that may make it more difficult to achieve this lofty goal,'' said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, the project's other co-director.

The "Sex Without Strings'' report is part of a larger study, the project's second annual report on the health of marriage in America, called "The State of Our Unions: 2000.''

To read the full report, click here.


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