Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Marital distress may harm a woman's
A story published today by Reuters Health says that an unhappy marriage can break a
woman's heart, figuratively and literally. New research suggests that married women
who are dissatisfied with their relationships face a higher risk for heart disease.
In a study of nearly 500 middle-aged women, researchers at the University of
Pittsburgh-Pennsylvania noted that marital "distress" was linked to a higher
risk for heart problems, independent of other threats to heart health such as smoking,
high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Moreover, women's marital woes appeared to be
unique from overall stress, depression and other psychological factors in their effects on
Researcher Wendy Troxel presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American
Previous research suggested that for men, marriage generally confers heart benefits.
The health effects of marriage on women has been less clear, according to co-author Dr.
The study, which followed the women over about 11 years, attempted to gauge how
marital satisfaction affects the heart as women go through menopause, Gallo explained in
She and her colleagues found that women who reported marital dissatisfaction were more
likely than satisfied women to have significant plaque build-up in the main artery of the
heart. They also were more likely to have blockages in the carotid arteries in the neck, a
known risk factor for stroke.
However, this study did not look at the normal stresses that come up from time to
time in a marital relationship according to Gallo. Instead, she said, it looked at
women's overall happiness with their husbands--their communication, amount of time spent
together, sex lives and a range of factors.
Dissatisfaction in a marriage may harm the heart by inflicting "wear and tear"
on the body, according to Gallo. Like stress, marital unhappiness may lead to habitual
elevations in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones.
She also noted that marital problems are likely to be one part of the
equation--triggering behaviors that take a toll on health, including sleeplessness and
changes in eating and exercise.
"It's my guess that marital dissatisfaction might put women on a trajectory to poorer
health," she said.
Bill to repeal North Carolina Sodomy
A story published today by Greensboro News & Record reports that certain groups in the
community are pushing for the state Senate to decriminalize oral and anal intercourse in
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird introduced a bill to the state Senate last week that would exempt
consenting adults from prosecution for "crimes against nature," but would
keep the prohibitions in place for acts done in public or for hire. The report quoted her
as saying that the current law was a "government stamp of authority" that
"lawless people" use to harass gays and lesbians.
About 400 people were prosecuted under the law last year. Conviction of crimes against
nature is a felony with a maximum sentence of more than a year in prison.
Similar bills have failed in past years because legislative committees are reserved in
bringing them to a vote. Lawmakers "are afraid of what could happen in an election
because it could be portrayed in an unfavorable way in an eight second sound bite,"
Deborah Ross, director of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Conservative groups are fighting the changes to the sodomy law, arguing that they amount
to promotion of the "homosexual lifestyle."
Jo Wyrick, executive director of Equality NC, a gay lobbying group, said the current North
Carolina sodomy law violates "a basic right to privacy."
"I think most people take the attitude that what other people do in their own homes
is their own business," Wyrick said.
Monday, March 12, 2001
Plaintiffs file suit against Utah's
A story published today in the Salt Lake Tribune reports that
city civil-rights attorney Brian Barnard will argue before the 10th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Denver that Utah should overturn the law that made it illegal for
unmarried, consenting adults to have sex.
Barnard says the statutes are unconstitutional, a clear invasion of privacy and an
imposition of one person's moral standards upon another. "If these statutes were
enforced, our court system would grind to a halt," Barnard said. "Our jails
would be overflowing."
Gayle Ruzicka, leader of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said the statutes should
remain on the books. She takes it a step further, arguing the laws should be
aggressively prosecuted. "Premarital sex has just as serious or more serious
side effects than drugs -- like unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted
diseases," she said.
"Why not teach our children that premarital sex is illegal and wrong and
they will be punished? If we did that, we could change society."
The current law in Utah makes fornication and sodomy
between consenting unmarried adults a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6
months behind bars and a $1,000 fine. Only a handful of offenders have been charged
since the laws were passed soon after statehood in 1896.
The specific issue before the three-judge panel is whether
the plaintiffs have the standing, or legal right, to challenge the laws.
In 1999, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce
recommended dismissal of their lawsuit because the plaintiffs could not prove they
were in imminent danger of prosecution.
"It is apparent the Utah fornication and sodomy statutes are not being
enforced in Salt Lake County by the . . . Salt Lake County district attorney," Boyce
wrote."The injury to plaintiffs is purely hypothetical and not concrete."
Last year, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart upheld Boyce's ruling and dismissed
Salt Lake District Attorney David Yocom -- who is named as the defendant --
said his office has no plans to prosecute violators of the anti-fornication and
sodomy statutes. "If we did that it would take all of our time," he said.
"If we do a prosecution for these crimes it is usually a plea bargain from a
more serious crime."
Yocom added that most people are unwilling to report these crimes. "Once
in a while wives do, but we tell them to go to divorce court." The
anti-fornication and sodomy laws have been stricken in some states by judges who have
deemed them unconstitutional. Lawmakers in other states have scrapped the laws while
overhauling their criminal code and killing outdated, unenforced laws.
Barnard is convinced it will be a court, not Utah lawmakers, that eventually
removes the laws.
"Can you imagine a legislator saying, 'We have to repeal these
laws,'?" asked Barnard. "He or she would be branded as being in favor of
fornication. No individual legislator wants to take that kind of heat."
Sunday, March 11, 2001
Bush's tax cut plan, who gets
A story published today in the Sacramento Bee reports
that the tax plan promoted by President Bush would basically bring modest savings to
middle-income taxpayers while delivering much larger dollar savings for the
In the lower tax rungs, it would help some taxpayers by cutting the bottom 15
percent rate to 10 percent on the first $6,000 earned. And a temporary 12 percent
bracket, retroactive to Jan. 1, would give all taxpayers an immediate break.
The story noted that Bush's proposal would lower the so-called
marriage penalty, increase the child tax credit and, in a separate gain for the
wealthiest taxpayers, repeal the estate tax.
A closer look at how the proposal would play out for tax year 2000 if it were
already in force shows that a single taxpayer with $40,000 in taxable income would
save little more than $700. That would lower the $7,788 tax bill for last year's
income to $7,088.
In contrast, a single taxpayer with higher taxable income of about $125,000 would
save about $5,000 in current dollars slashing a $33,431 tax bill to $28,431.
Joint filers with one child and $50,000 in taxable income would save more than
$1,100 in taxes in the Bush plan. The couple's $7,800 tax bill would drop to about
However, the same couple with $250,000 in taxable income could cut about $8,000
from their tax bill. Instead of paying federal taxes of about $73,000 on the current
Under current tax law, a married couple filing jointly with $400,000 in taxable
income face a federal tax bill of $131,068. The Bush proposal would slice that tax bill by
In other words, Bush's plan would drop the share of taxable income paid by that
taxpayer from nearly 33 percent to 28.5 percent.
Carol Van Bruggen, a partner in Foord, Van Bruggen & Ebersole Financial Services in
Sacramento, said she understands the need for all groups to get a tax break.
"I would like to see lower taxes because I work with a lot of people who work
long hours, have employees, and each and every year they are having to pay more and
more in taxes," Van Bruggen said.
A tax break for this group, she said, spurs the economy and boosts
earnings for publicly traded companies.
The balance of Bush's tax package would give breaks to joint
tax filers, parents and large estates.
To lessen the so-called marriage penalty, Bush proposes reducing
taxable income by granting up to $3,000 in deductions to two-earner couples who file
The plan would also increase the child tax credit to $1,000 from
the current $500 per child.
The income threshold for phasing out eligibility would also climb
to $200,000 from current levels of $75,000 for single taxpayers and $110,000 for
The Bush proposal would gradually phase out federal estate and gift
taxes by 2009.
Under the current taxpayer relief act, individuals may pass along to
heirs up to $675,000 this year without paying any estate taxes. An estate that
exceeds that threshold can be taxed at 55 percent.
With regards to charitable giving, the plan would allow filers who do
not itemize their tax returns to take deductions for charitable giving.
Much of the Bush tax savings come from the collapse of the
existing 39.6 percent and 36 percent tax rates to 33 percent by 2006. The current 31
percent and 28 percent rates would drop to 25 percent.
The 15 percent rate would not drop, but a new 10 percent bracket would
be created on the first $6,000 of taxable income for individuals and $12,000 for couples.
These changes would commence on 2002 and be phased in over five
years, taking full effect in 2006.
The Bush tax plan, however, does not address the alternative minimum
tax. Known as AMT, it was designed in the 1980s to assure that wealthier
taxpayers didn't avoid taxes through legal tax breaks.
But AMT is not tied to inflation. So as wages have risen, more
middle-income workers have been ensnared by AMT.
Factor the necessary reform to this tax and the cost of the Bush
package jumps to $2 trillion (from the current $1.6 trillion estimate), according to
critic Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
The Bush plan also has no effect on payroll taxes (Social
Security and Medicare taxes), which Lieberman calls "the most crushing tax
burden" for most Americans.
Opponents also cite a Citizens for Tax Justice study that concluded
that 60 percent of filers would receive just 13 percent of the benefits.
"If you make over $300,000 a year, this tax cut means you get to buy
a new Lexus," Senate Minority Leader Tom Dashle, D-S.D., said last month in
Washington, D.C. "If you make $50,000 a year, you get to buy a muffler on your
Proponents of the Bush plan counter with their own study.
Individual taxpayers in the top 50 percent of income groups bore 95.8
percent of the individual income tax burden in 1998, according to a Tax Foundation study
released last fall.
Florida Governor to fund
"abstinence only" education
A story published today in the St. Petersburg Times reports
that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would like to take $1-million of the money the state spends on
family planning at health clinics and spend it on telling teens they should
remain virgins until marriage.
The state would provide``abstinence-only'' education
grants provided that counselors wouldn't be allowed to talk about birth control at
all. This does not deprive other programs where teens would still hear
the ``safe sex'' message taught in schools and local health departments.
Bush says he supports abstinence-only education because
``nationally, the programs have got a good record'' in preventing teen pregnancy.
While these programs have mushroomed in recent years all over
the nation, state officials say neither the state nor the federal government has done a
comprehensive evaluation to monitor its effectiveness.
Florida to date has about 35 chastity education
programs. So far, all have been funded with federal dollars. Much of the money goes
to private groups, many of which are religious. The groups are not supposed
to provide teens a religious message, even though meetings are often held in churches
and speakers come from local congregations.
Bush's proposal, which is part of his budget request to the
Legislature, marks the first time state money would fund programs like Sex Can
Wait, Best Friends and Everyone's Not Doing It.
Critics say Bush's move to fund more chastity education
programs will drain money from family-planning programs that provide
medical care for poor women who have no health insurance.
Carolyn Pardue, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said Bush's
plan to redirect family planning money into teen chastity programs will prevent as many as
10,000 poor women from getting proper medical test screening and birth control counseling
at their local county health department or women's clinic.
``Is this the best bang for the buck? I don't think so,''
said state Rep. Joyce Cusack, D-DeLand, who has worked as a public health nurse.
``Family planning involves a lot of preventive care for women. We talk about early
detection for cancer -- well, this is one of the methods the state has in place for
Bush and his health secretary, Bob Brooks, say those services
won't be cut, even though $1-million will be diverted out of the state's $5.7-million
family planning budget to pay for the chastity programs.
Democrats and Republicans lawmakers say it's fine to teach
teens that abstinence is a good option. But they are reluctant in banning counselors
from even mentioning birth control, and wonder what evidence exists to prove the programs
``I don't support gagging people from talking about other
forms of contraceptives,'' said state Rep. Carol Green, R-Fort Myers. ``I have a
problem about not giving young people all the information.''
``It really isn't a gag order on the counselors,'' said
Annette Phelps, who oversees abstinence programs for the Florida Department of Health.
``The best health message we can give is monogamy in the context of marriage. If we were
to mix that message with conntraceptive use, it's confusing.''
Connecticut legislature to debate same-sex
A story published today by the Associated Press reports
that supporters of same-sex marriage laws are optimistic that Connecticut will be the
next state to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples.
Lawmakers say the proposal has drawn growing interest in
the General Assembly. Legislators already have agreed to extend health insurance
coverage to partners of state employees, and they also enacted a hate crime law
related to violence against homosexuals.
The Legislature's Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing
on same-sex marriages on March 16.
''Connecticut is seen as a state that definitely has a
better possibility of passing something similar to Vermont,'' said Anne
Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a Connecticut gay rights organization.
Stanback's group led a successful effort last year to get the
Connecticut Legislature to enact a law that allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.
But the proposal wasn't free of controversy, and it took two
years for it to be approved.
In 1999, opponents of ''the gay adoption bill'' amended it to
include a Defense of Marriage provision, which would have made it a law that
Connecticut only recognizes marriage between men and women.
Supporters pulled the bill after the amendment passed.
Stanback and others expect the Defense of Marriage concept to
be revived as lawmakers debate same-sex marriage.
In 1996, Congress passed legislation, which was signed into
law by then-President Clinton, prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Since 1995, 34 states also have prohibited same-sex marriages, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Rep. Peter Nystrom, R-Norwich, a 15-year veteran of the
Judiciary Committee, and an opponent of same-sex marriage, said he expects a bill to ban
same-sex marriages to be introduced if one that allows it arises.
Nystrom said he and several other lawmakers are
frustrated that the issue is being debated because they were promised last year
that the gay adoption bill wouldn't lead to a gay marriage proposal this year.
''We were told it wouldn't come up,'' Nystrom said.
''There's resentment out there, I know that. I suspect if this comes to a vote
on the floor this year, you won't have a temperate debate.''
State Rep. Arthur Feltman, D-Hartford, a vice chairman of the
Judiciary Committee and one of a handful of openly gay lawmakers in the General Assembly,
said he sees the March 16 hearing as a starting point.
''What you don't want to do is put a concept up there
and make people feel uncomfortable,'' Feltman said. ''We really need to give
people some more background and get people thinking about it.''
Friday, March 9, 2001
William Bennett concerned with decline of
A story reported in The Christian Science Monitor states that
since 1993, former Education Secretary William Bennett has kept a close eye on the trends
affecting almost every American. His latest "Index of Leading Cultural
Indicators" is a warning sign for what he calls "a problem of the first
order" - the decline of the American family.
He cites a dramatic increase of out-of-wedlock births (up 18
percent from 1998 to 1999) and a 13 percent increase in single-parent households between
1990 and 1998.
The report also notes the number of divorces going down a
bit, the number of children living in poverty is lower, and the past decade saw a 43
percent decline in the welfare roles.
The index showed the abortion rate has fallen for the past 10
years. The index, however, doesn't reflect how minorities and women continue to show
improvement - in income, home ownership, educational attainment, and life expectancy.
A number of questions are also not examined in this study.
Overlooked are multiple signs of an increased sense of community, such as the interactions
with others that people find on the Internet. Also, volunteerism is up significantly. And
charitable giving is up more than 200 percent since 1960, with some three-quarters of that
coming from individual citizens, indicating a public not entirely disassociated from a
larger sense of family.
So numerical indicators are not the whole story. Rather, they
are figures that can suggest - but not conclusively - long-term consequences, which, by
Mr. Bennett's own admission, are uncertain.
This index does point to some good news: Crime rate is down
and more money is being shelled out on education - evidence that sound government policies
can make a difference.
Thursday, March 8, 2001
Kentucky board favors abstinence
education for youth
A column written by Addia Wuchner says that the health
board's decision to discontinue sex education programs currently offered by the
health department came after much discussion about the Teen Outreach Program and the
Reducing the Risk Program. Wuchner is chairman of the Human Sexuality
Education Committee and Health Department board designee.
Concerns arose as to the appropriateness of the message of
these programs. The board reviewed the TOPs program in light of federal
guidelines on abstinence education and concluded that the programs did not entirely meet
The board agreed that the three TOPs programs in progress
would continue through their completion dates, but a committee would be established
to oversee appropriate modifications to them.
The board established the Human Sexuality Education Committee
to develop curriculum guidelines and standards for abstinence programs, which would
later be endorsed by the board, and promoted and facilitated by the health
department. The committee had the additional charge of overseeing the emergency
modification of the three current TOPs programs.
Results from The Kentucky Post Readers' Hotline poll
published Feb. 3 showed the public favored the board's decision to move to
abstinence programs by a margin of 3-1, noting ''most callers to the Kentucky
Post Readers' Hotline applauded the decisions to revamp sex education programs
to teach abstinence only to Northern Kentucky teen-agers.''
Every day in the United States, 8,000 teens contract a
sexually transmitted disease. Over 900,000 teen-age females become pregnant each
year; 70 percent of them fail to finish high school.
Wuchner stated that the dual message of, ''abstinence is
best but, if you cannot abstain - be responsible '' has failed our children, and
has done irreparable harm to their future lives and health. She also noted that
condoms and contraceptives have failed to substantially decrease sexually
transmitted diseases and pregnancy rates outside of marriage have increased.
The highest increase in HIV and Human Papilloma Virus
(HPV) infections is among young people. There is no cure for HIV or HPV. Once
infected they will live with the disease the rest of their lives. For the rest of
their lives, sexual intercourse means they can pass the disease on to another person.
The impact of adolescent sexual behavior is not limited to
physical health. Studies report the rate of suicide attempts for sexually active 12-
to16-year-old girls was six times higher than girls who were still virgins.
The emotional, social and economic effects on unwed parenting
are only part of the harmful consequences of early sexual activity. Studies
show that children are happier and healthier when nurtured in a
committed two-parent married home.
Wuchner thus concluded that abstinence is the healthiest
sexual behavior for unmarried teens. Parental cooperation and community education she
states are essential components in assisting our teen-agers in building their
futures on solid ground.
Study finds married men are healthier
A story released by Reuters Health notes that men who
become widowed or divorced may lose more than a spouse. They will also likely give up
a range of health habits that help protect against disease and early death, results of a
The study which is scheduled to be presented at the
annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Monterey,
California, indicate that recently divorced and widowed men eat fewer vegetables,
drink more alcohol, and are not likely to quit smoking than their married
The study results support the belief that marriage is
good for men. Research has shown, for instance, that divorced men are more likely
to smoke, drink, develop Alzheimer's disease, commit suicide and die prematurely.
In the current trial of nearly 30,000 men,
vegetable consumption declined by more than three servings per week in
men following the death of a spouse, and nearly two servings per week after a
Divorced men were more likely to smoke than their
married peers but those who remarried were likely to quit, the studies show. Widowed
men were more likely than married men to drink heavily--more than 21 drinks a week.
However, it is not clear from the study why widowers or
newly single men may be more lax when it comes to their health, but study co-author
Dr. Ichiro Kawachi presumes that women have a salutary effect on men.
"Women in general are much better at keeping doctor and
dentist appointments. And there may be an unequal distribution of cooking tasks at
home...even though most women are also working in paid jobs," said Kawachi.
Indeed, newly single men also increased their consumption of
fried foods outside the home.
Kawachi said that doctors should be aware of their male
patients' marital status and inquire about changes when their health habits begin to
According to an earlier study, divorce or marital separation
more than doubled the risk of suicide in men but was unrelated to suicide risks in
women. Another study linked lower blood pressure in men with social support from
White House says that tax cuts would aid lower incomes
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that
the White House released a Treasury Department analysis of President Bush's income tax
cuts showing the plan would most help people with low to moderate incomes.
Democrats reiterate, however, that the analysis doesn't
include Bush's plan to eliminate estate taxes, which affects about 2 percent of people who
die each year. They asserted that in sheer dollar terms the wealthy would still benefit
A Treasury Department statement accompanying the analysis,
known as a distribution table, pointed out that the share of income tax relief for
taxpayers with incomes of $100,000 or less would be greater than the share of income taxes
they now pay.
For example, those earning incomes between $30,000 and
$40,000 would see their portion of income taxes paid drop from the current 2.5 percent to
1.8 percent under the Bush plan. They would get 6.5 percent of the total Bush tax cut
studied by the Treasury.
However, the total share of income taxes paid for those
earning more than $100,000 would rise from 70 percent to 74 percent, and their portion of
Bush's tax cut would amount to 45 percent.
In other words, the tax reduction for the lowest income group
-- those earning up to $30,000 a year -- would amount to 138 percent, compared to only 8.7
percent for those earning above $200,000 annually. That upper-income group would also pay
46 percent of all income taxes, which is 3 percent higher than the current rate.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said this ``confirms that
President Bush's tax plan provides the most help to low- and modest-income Americans.
President Bush's plan is fair, responsible and will help those who need it most.''
The Treasury analysis counts Bush's income tax rate
reductions, doubling of the $500 child credit, expanded deduction for charitable giving,
easing of the marriage penalty and tax credit for purchase of health insurance. The
analysis assumes these are fully phased in using 2000 estimates.
But it doesn't include the estate tax, which Democrats say is
a principal omission.
In a memo on the Treasury analysis from House Ways and Means
Committee, Democrats suggested that while the percentage cuts may seem enormous for
lower-income people, in terms of real dollars it does not amount to much. A family of four
paying $1,500 income taxes on an income of $35,000 a year would only get $600, even though
the tax cut amounts to 40 percent.
The same family earning $500,000 a year would see a tax cut
of $21,450 or about 13 percent.
Wednesday, March 7, 2001
Unmarried partner inclusion derails grandparent visitation bill in Washington state
A story published today in The Columbian reports that a late-breaking dispute over gay and
lesbian rights has derailed Washington's latest attempt to repair its third-party
Worried about ambiguous language in a bill that would restore legal standing to
grandparents and other in-laws whose visiting rights were stripped by a U.S. Supreme Court
ruling last year, a key Republican legislator blocked the bill at last week's midsession
The battle was fought over what constitutes a "family" in contemporary society.
Advocates for the bill said intentionally vague wording reflects a complex world. But to
Rep. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, imprecise language is a foothold for gay and lesbian
"I just didn't want to go into uncharted territory," said Carrell, co-chairman
of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill died Feb. 27.
In a 49-49 House tie, each party must agree to pass legislation.
"It's an absurdity," responded his Democrat co-chairwoman, Patricia Lantz of Gig
Harbor. "He just lost it. He's just focused on something here that's not the point at
House Bill 2065, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Edmonds, D-Shoreline, would have made it more
difficult for nonparents trying to prove they deserve an ongoing role in a child's life,
should a parent or guardian cut off contact.
Last year's United States Supreme Court ruling in Troxel v. Granville concluded that
Washington's visitation laws were too broad, trampling on parents' rights to oversee
children. That left hundreds of potential plaintiffs with no legal recourse.
After consulting with family law advocates and attorneys, Carrell and Edmonds wrote new
standards that petitioners would have to meet in order to pursue court action -- and only
after mandatory mediation.
Under the bill, non-biological parents would need to prove a "substantial
relationship" and have been "unreasonably" denied visiting rights. They
then would need to prove long-term benefit to the child (or long-term harm if denied
contact), short of stomping on parents' control.
Under these guidelines, a child's best interest would rule, Edmonds said. Many people
might file for visitation, but only those with very close ties to the child would succeed
The story says that a huge sticking point emerged last month.
Carrell objected to the pool of potential petitioners: People related by blood, marriage
or common-law marriage (allowing for adoption), and those "who lived with the child
in a parental or quasi-parental relationship." The latter phrase was unacceptable, he
With a "cautious and careful" approach, Carrell would lend aid to people related
by blood, marriage or adoption -- and no more, he said. "It is really too bad the
Democrats killed this bill, because they inserted gay rights. They sort of wanted to
expand the universe."
Edmonds and Lantz said it was Carrell who dropped the bomb, demanding a last-minute
rewrite. Edmonds had already rewritten her bill once and refused to do it again.
Democrats said unmarried or remarried partners of in-laws
would have been jilted -- not just gays and lesbians.
Carrell said he will be back in 2002 with a "cleaner" version of the
legislation. As it stands, HB 2065 could be resurrected for a House floor vote anytime
before March 14.