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U.S. News Archive
October 01 - October 06, 2001



This page contains news for the period October 01, 2001 through October 06, 2001.  

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Friday, October 5, 2001

Single Americans are shifting priorities after Sept. 11 attack

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that the World Trade Center attacks has had profound effect on Americans nationwide. Americans are dusting off their interpersonal skills as part of an urgent desire - however short-lived - to shift priorities and strengthen relationships after what they witnessed last month.

Long-lost friends and AWOL family members are giving phone lines a workout. Even those contemplating divorce are reconsidering, and singles are flocking to dating services, surprising veteran love-connectors.

"I have never seen anything like this, not in my lifetime, and I'm a baby boomer," says Gilda Carle, a relationship and dating expert.

Though it's too soon to tell if trends such as marrying late and pop-culture's fascination with the single life will be curbed, dating services say they have seen significant increases in membership over the numbers they usually have in the fall.

Revenues for the jointly owned dating services Together and The Right One were up 22 percent over last year during the last two weeks of September. In a survey of more than 7,500 customers, eharmony.com found that 44 percent of respondents said they feel an increased desire to be in a long-term relationship.

Other people are looking to those who are already close at hand for companionship. In Houston, couples reportedly backed out of divorces at three times the normal rate in the 10 working days after Sept. 11, with nearly 400 cases being dismissed.

Cultural observers say that traditionally, it takes an event of this magnitude to shake Americans out of their usual busy, career-oriented routines. War has an especially profound effect.

"As a general principle, when people are reminded of sudden death, they begin to think about how that experience might affect their own relationships," says Gene Griessman, whose forthcoming book "The Americans" looks at how those who live in the US got to be the way they are.

During World Wars I and II, there were many quickie marriages, and the divorce rate spiked after each. During the Great Depression, there were fewer divorces, because people didn't want to face trying economic times alone.

That Americans - especially those in the military - might now be wanting to get on with marriage plans doesn't surprise Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"When we feel helpless before a big threat, like the one we face today, one of the individual resources we can marshal all on our own is attachment," she says.

Whether these attitudes continue depends somewhat on if Americans continue to feel threatened, she says. "It's not at all clear whether this is a reaction to the trauma, or a pivotal moment that causes changes in the longer-term trends."

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Non-profit group says abstinence-only programs ineffective

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, criticized an amendment introduced by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) to increase funding for ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs -- programs that censor information about contraception from young people.

The Surgeon General of the United States David Satcher has also rejected the abstinence-only-until-marriage approach, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has cited these programs as examples of "poor fiscal and public health policy."

The amendment calls for $73 million for FY 2002 to be allocated to the Title V SPRANS program. Under welfare reform, Congress already allocates $50 million a year to these programs.

"What Congress has to realize is that, by denying young people critical information about contraception and prevention in the era of AIDS, they are placing the health and lives of young people in jeopardy," said Wagoner.

Wagoner urges Congress to adopt a more comprehensive approach to sexuality education, one that includes both strong messages of abstinence and contraception.

"It is unacceptable that politicians are still putting their ideology before the health and well-being of our nation's young people. Instead, Congress must act as the research directs, and they must do it now. Every day that Congress delays costs our young people dearly," Wagoner concluded.

Singles combining incomes to become homeowners

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that singles unable to afford a house alone are turning to one another, and buying together.

While married couples account for two-thirds of home owners, singles are gaining on them, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). More than a fourth of homeowners are now single individuals. NAR doesn't distinguish between single friends and unmarried couples, who together account for about 7 percent of homeowners.

A sense of community and better friendships are often the byproducts of buying a home with a friend, many buyers find. This aspect of co-ownership may become more important to singles, as many now feel - in light of the events of Sept. 11 - an increased need to form closer bonds.

Attorneys recommend that unmarried co-homeowners have at least a basic partnership agreement, which is a legal contract describing what happens if one owner dies, wants to sell, or doesn't pay his share of the maintenance costs.

"Most people are thinking about the living arrangements," but a co-owner who loses a job or decides to get married can leave a house partner hanging; that's where the real problems lie," says Celeste Hammond, director of the Real Estate Center at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Buying a home with a friend "should be considered with more care than buying it alone or buying it as a couple," Professor Hammond says. "If you're not married, you don't have the protections of the marital state."

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Mandatory classes in Virginia assist divorcing couples focus on their kids

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that the state of Virginia has made it mandatory for anyone, married or not, who goes to court over custody, visitation or child support to attend classes that helps couples on how and how not to run a divided family. In other words, how to avoid the legal bills and the endless arguments, and the damage it can do to the children.

"The legal system is a very seductive process," said Alan G. Young, a class instructor. "You have a courtroom, you have a judge on a high bench, you have court officers around, and you want to go in and have the judge say, 'Boom, you are right.' . . . But that's not what the legal system is for."

Young's teaching partner and wife, Kathleen, told the two dozen people in the class, "Think ahead: The more positive relationship you can have with your ex, the better it's going to be for your children."

Even lawyers are rooting for the classes to defuse litigation.

Andrew Schepard is one of the pioneers of education for feuding parents, which he said was unheard of a decade ago. Courses vary, he said, but their common goal is to teach parents to allow children to adjust to a divorce or separation and maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.

"This basically says: Divorce isn't the death of a family," said Schepard, a Hofstra University law professor. "It's the reorganization of a family. The underlying philosophy is decency."

Ann Warshauer offers herself as Exhibit A in how parents can come up short. She said when she and her first husband divorced, when their daughter was 4, they got stuck on anger and frustration.

Now, as a teacher of a co-parenting class for the Fairfax County, Va., schools' Center for Promoting Family Learning and Involvement, Warshauer tries to help others avoid her mistakes.

Warshauer said the class starts with the parents' feelings but then shifts to the feelings of the children.

The four key topics in her class are the impact of separation on children; discipline and other parenting decisions; options for resolving conflict; and the financial responsibilities. She said the goal is to help angry parents set up a new relationship: Like business partners, they don't have to socialize, but they do have to communicate.

Monday, October 1, 2001

Turning to sex to soothe jitters

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that many Americans are turning to post-disaster sex to soothe their jitters in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, meaning there might be a baby boom in nine months.

Post-disaster sex is similar to sex that happens before, during and after war, said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist. There is a sense between departing soldiers and their partners that this sex may be the last.

Many soldiers marry before they are sent off to war, not because they are magically seduced but because of something more instinctual, says Schwartz.

When people are afraid, the body's fight or flight response is triggered, said Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University who lives in Manhattan. A cocktail of hormones and neurochemicals is released, stimulating the survival instinct, driving up levels of dopamine and, possibly, the hormone testosterone, which stimulates the libido. "I noticed this phenomenon in 1994 when I was on a book tour in Los Angeles following the earthquake there," said Fisher, referring to her best-selling book, "The Anatomy of Love ". "In a matter of hours, many people came up to me and asked: 'Why, in the middle of this disaster, am I so horny?'"

Demographers should expect a rise in the birth rate about 10 months from now, she added.

Although the phenomenon seems to be more common in Manhattan, people all over America are reporting heightened libidos.

Indeed, the scale of the World Trade Center attacks is a profound reminder of mortality, especially for New Yorkers, said Xavier Amador, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University. "When people feel their own mortality and feel how precious their own life is, in an odd way it gives them courage to do and say a lot of things they may have wanted to but haven't."

Supreme Court rejects Jewish students appeal on Yale’s coed dorms

A story released by Reuters reports that the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by four Orthodox Jewish students who claimed that requiring them to live in sexually immodest coed dorms at Yale University violated their religious beliefs.

The four students contended that Yale's refusal to exempt them from the residence rule or to accommodate them amounted to illegal discrimination against students who have religious objections to coed housing.

The justices let stand a U.S. appeals court ruling without any comment or dissent that dismissed the lawsuit against the university in New Haven, Connecticut.  The university has a policy that requires all unmarried freshmen and sophomores under age 21 to live on campus in the coed dorms.

Prenuptial agreements in Massachusetts may be in jeopardy

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Massachusetts’ highest court is scheduled to hear a divorce case that could render prenuptial agreements useless.

The Supreme Judicial Court is being asked to overturn a lower court's decision that a prenuptial agreement signed by a bride in 1990 was unfair.

Lawyers in the case say the SJC's decision could be pivotal.

"If this decision is upheld, then it is essentially going to make prenuptial agreements unenforceable," said Mark Smith, one of Marty DeMatteo's lawyers.

The case arose when Marty DeMatteo, 59, filed for divorce. His lawyers argued the prenuptial agreement with Susan DeMatteo, 52, signed 11 years ago is valid.

The agreement would give Susan DeMatteo $35,000 a year, a car, a house, plus cost-of-living increases. His lawyers said that he also voluntarily paid $85,000 a year in child support on top of the alimony.

But her lawyers argued successfully in Probate and Family Court that the agreement was not "fair and reasonable," a key phrase set forth by the state SJC 20 years ago as the litmus test for enforcement of prenuptial agreements.

The SJC, lawyers say, now might have to define what is "fair and reasonable."

In Massachusetts, the last major ruling on prenuptial agreements came 20 years ago. That ruling involved a case of a divorcing couple who met while they were in medical school.

The wife was an heiress to a massive pharmaceutical fortune. When they divorced, the husband contested their prenuptial, which gave him no alimony and no share in his wife's estate.

The SJC noted that other courts had decided that prenuptials were not valid, but ruled that they could be upheld if they were "fair and reasonable."


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