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U.S. News Archive
December 14 - December 20, 2001



This page contains news for the period December 14, 2001 through December 20, 2001.  

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Thursday, December 20, 2001

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Youth group criticizes increased federal funding for abstinence-only sex education

A story released today by the U.S. Newswire reports that the Senate has joined the House of Representatives in approving, by a vote of 90-7, over $100 million for unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This marks an increase of 25 percent from FY 2001.

This increase comes just months after Surgeon General David Satcher's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior cited the need for sexuality education that stresses abstinence, but also provides medically accurate information about contraception and birth control. Current federal abstinence-only-until-marriage programs censor critical information about contraception.

"Medical experts, including the Surgeon General of the United States, sent a clear message to politicians: follow the research, support what works, and stop investing millions of dollars into unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs," said James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth.

"Despite expert findings, our government continues to allocate more taxpayer dollars for ineffective sexuality education programs," said Wagoner. "Congress should stop all additional funding until the current evaluation of these programs is complete."

Advocates for Youth is calling on policy makers to take a stand for America's teens and to support increased funding for realistic, balanced sexuality education that provides young people with information about both abstinence and contraception.

Advocates for Youth is a national, nonprofit organization that creates programs and supports policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.


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Numbers increasing in homeless single-parent families

A story published today by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that according to a study released last week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the number of homeless individuals and families has grown an average of 13 percent over the past year.

The study's survey of 27 U.S. cities also revealed that families with children comprise 40 percent of the homeless population. The vast majority, nearly 70 percent, of homeless families are headed by single parents, said U.S. Conference of Mayors spokesman Andy Solomon.

The Set Free Shelter has also experienced an upsurge in housing requests over just the past month, said Set Free Pastor Kirk Overstreet. Since Dec. 1, the ministry has provided shelter for 131 people, including 45 families.

''The rise in women with children is at least 20 percent over last year," Overstreet said.

To make things worse, charitable donations have fallen off precipitously since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he added.

Tri-City Mental Health Homeless Services Director Gilbert Saldate said his agency has also seen an increase in the numbers of homeless families.

Saldate attributes the growth to the supplies and demands of a tough housing market - increasingly scarce affordable housing and rising rents. Add to that a faltering economy pushing more people into unemployment or low-paying jobs, he said.


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Surviving the holidays when you’re single

An article released today by the San Francisco Examiner reports that surviving the holidays when your single does not mean alienating yourself when couples and families around you are spreading the holiday cheer.

"Singles, surrounded by happy couples and loving families during holiday gatherings, may feel as though they've failed to live up to their own expectations with regard to finding and forming a loving romantic relationship," says Neil Clark Warren, author of "How to Know If Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less."

Dr. Warren provides six suggestions to surviving single awareness season:

1. Focus on the positive in your life, rather than what is missing.

2. Spend time with people who love generously, listen carefully and take you seriously.

3. Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead.

4. Set goals to reach your potential in the New Year.

5. Focus the needs of others, and make a genuine attempt to help them with their problems.

6. Focus on the meaning of the holidays.

Dr. Warren recommends exploring the depths of giving, of unselfishness, of hope, of getting a hold of the future: "This holiday season can be a time to explore one's life and make positive changes."

"It is a fundamental psychological truth that when you help other people, you feel significantly better about yourself." adds Dr. Warren.


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Beating the blues this holiday season

A story published today by the Union-News reports that for singles and others who are newly separated, divorced or widowed or who feel badly about the lack of significant someone to celebrate with, the holiday season can seem bleak.

"It's a very emotional time and people can feel sad or a little down during Christmas or on New Year's Eve, as it's milestone when one year ends and another year begins."

Experts say there are things that can be done to fend off loneliness. "If you are shut in, it's a good time to connect with others by the phone," said Thomas F. Coleman, executive director for the American Association for Single People in Glendale, Calif.

He suggests calling friends or relatives, even if you haven't talked to them for months or years."Don't worry about calling them at a bed time. If they can't talk, ask them when you could call back," Coleman said.

'If you don't make calls, you don't get calls back. What you sow, you reap. It can change the whole picture," he adds.

Churches and synagogues also host activities during the holidays and welcome newcomers. "There is caroling, pageants. Find a local church, get their bulletin and see what's going on," Coleman said.

"It's a way to be with people in an upbeat spirit in fellowship and congregation. People won't look at you and wonder why you haven't been there before. Instead, they'll be welcoming, especially at this time of year."

Volunteering is another way to give you something interesting to think about and get you involved with people. "Find out if there is a homeless shelter or shelter for battered women. When you do something in the spirit of giving, it make you feel good and also puts you in touch with people who may become friends," Coleman said.

Leduc agrees that "it's a good idea to take the focus off yourself and do something for the community."

People who don't want to volunteer or make a commitment may find that donating toys or a turkey to a needy family or a shelter can boost their spirits. "Use your imagination to find a place to volunteer at where there are children. Look on bulletin boards or in the Yellow pages," Coleman said.

Many people have neighbors who they see, but don't really know. Coleman said the holidays provide the perfect opportunity to invite them to your home for a glass of eggnog, coffee and cookies, or a drink. "If you don't want to do that, send them a small gift to break the ice," he said.

Talking to people you meet or work with and asking them what they are doing on Christmas or New Year's invites them to return the question. "It's an opening for them to ask you to their home. People may not have a clue that you will be alone, so they don't invite you to do anything with them," he said.


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Singles shaping the culture and economy

A story published today by the Economist.com reports that singlehood as portrayed in movies and television is not that far from the reality of the real world. The people who now dominate and shape the rich world's city life,are not just in New York and London, but increasingly in Tokyo, Stockholm, Paris and Santiago. The full article can be read by clicking to the link below.



Wednesday, December 19, 2001

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Reducing arguments over finances

An article released today by Scripps Howard News Service offers a number of tips for couples who want to avoid fights over money:

- Pick one person to pay and sort out the bills. This makes it harder for a bill to slip through the cracks. Late payment fees can add up and cause nasty and heated arguments.

-Learn as much as possible about your partner's finances including salary, savings and credit-card debt, before marriage. This way, you avoid surprises when you go to make big purchases, such as a car or home.

- Cancel all but a couple of credit cards. Some families have more than a dozen credit cards, which makes it difficult to track spending.

- Set goals together for your financial future. Just stating certain goals, such as owning a home or paying for a child's education, can help you achieve them.

-Maintain an emergency fund with at least six months' worth of your combined income. That minimizes stress if one partner loses a job.


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Divorced families and the new meaning of holiday togetherness

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that family togetherness goes with the holidays like nutmeg sprinkled on eggnog. But for divorced families the holidays can have more humbugs than cheer when choosing where to eat the Thanksgiving meal, or with whom to open presents.

This is the holiday reality for many households in a nation where the number of annual divorces first topped 1 million in the mid-1970s, and gloomy statistics reveal that half of all marriages now end in divorce.

There's no question that divorce tears the family social fabric. But what some families have come to learn is that divorce doesn't have to continue to be divisive as children mature and start families of their own.

Human-development and family-study experts offer different reasons for why this happens. Mediation instead of litigation has become an effective way for divorcing spouses to learn how to solve problems concerning children. Also, divorce education, a court-mandated, child-focused class for divorcing parents, has become common practice in the United States.

"With mediation and joint legal custody, probably now, more than 15 years ago, there are more divorcing parents that do try to work together for the sake of the kids," says Larry Ganong, a professor of human and family development at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Marilyn Coleman, Mr. Ganong's wife and colleague, says agreeing to cooperate can help ease tension over the holidays, an anxious time for many people, married or not.

"If people can be more flexible and not worry about the day a holiday falls on - as if it were magical in some way - then you can adapt so kids don't feel like they are disappointing everybody by not being [at both parents' holiday celebrations]. That takes some maturing and distance from the anger in order to do that."

For the past 17 years, Bob Billingham has been teaching a class at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., about the effects of divorce on children. He sees some of his students get angry when their parents try to reunite for holidays.

"In adolescence and in college, children are trying to sort out their own personal definitions: What is commitment and what is love? What are relationships and how do they work? On the one hand," Mr. Billingham says, "[they're pleased when] they see their parents, who seem to get along as good friends; but the other side of this is, if you guys can get along so well ... isn't this what marriage was supposed to have been about?"

Charlotte Shoup Olsen, a Kansas State University family systems specialist, offers workshops with pointers on how all kinds of families can make it through the holidays with more peace and less disappointment. While divorced families who reunite are relatively unusual, Ms. Olsen says, the same etiquette applies to them as to other gatherings of family members: Be willing to compromise; talk about expectations ahead of time; avoid "hot button" topics; and be respectful of everybody's wants, while not denying your own.

When divorced families mature to the point where they can agree to reunite, family ties can strengthen, however untraditional they seem. And sometimes when grandchildren start arriving, the nuclear family tightens, even though it might include new players and different relationships.

Experts caution, however, that post-divorce family togetherness may not be not for everyone, and honesty should be carefully considered by all parties involved. "People should be asking themselves: 'Is this really going to work, or are we pretending?' " says Billingham of Indiana University.


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Sex and the single life

A story released today by SkyNews reports that according to a survey conducted by the research group 2CV for Translucis, most young adults are faithful while they are in a relationship , but are eager for one night stands when they are single.

More than half of the single 18 to 24-year-olds questioned revealed themselves to be rampant bed-hoppers, saying they enjoyed no-strings-attached flings.

A number of those surveyed also claimed to have had at least six casual partners in the previous six months alone. And one in 20 said they had slept with between 10 and 20 partners over the same period.

But nine out of 10 from the same age group insisted they never strayed when going out with someone regularly, giving the break-up of their parents' marriage as the main reason.

The survey also revealed that men were almost twice as likely as women to be unfaithful.

They were also more likely to sleep with their best friend's partner, the survey of more than 1,000 people revealed.

2CV's Darren Hanley, said: "The survey reveals an interesting conflict between attitudes held by this age group according to their status as single or involved.

"Fidelity is the biggest issue for those in a relationship, and many take a highly moral stance towards the issue."

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

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Family-friendly benefits in the workplace often leave out the single workers

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that single workers have always been given the added burden by companies to work on holidays and do more overtime compared to other employees who are married or have children. And when those single workers requests to leave early or  take unscheduled time off, permission is almost always denied.

"They come down really hard on us," said one Chicago hospital worker. "It's not fair."

"This issue doesn't surprise me, and what's going to happen, as more and more companies downsize and staffing gets tighter, there may be even less equity," said Mary Young, senior research consultant at the Center for Organizational Research, a division of Linkage Inc., a training and organizational consulting firm in Lexington, Mass.

Some 40 percent of the workforce is unmarried, according to estimates by Thomas Coleman, an attorney and executive director of the 1,300-member American Association for Single People, a nonprofit organization based in Glendale, Calif. Coleman's definition of "single" is "anybody who's not legally married."

"Workers who don't have children or a legal spouse literally are being cheated by employers when it comes to benefits and other workplace policies. It can add up to thousands of dollars a year and is reflected in health-care policies, child-care deductions and even retirement. It's as if you fit the right lifestyle--married with children--you'll be rewarded."

Coleman advocates benefits plans that are on a cafeteria basis. "Let employees choose what they want to do."

As for flexible working hours, he encourages recognizing that even if you don't have children, you may be responsible for elderly parents or have interests you want to pursue. "But we're making progress," the AASP executive director said. "Things are changing."

Employers, too, are aware of the resentment some singles feel. "Companies are inviting backlash if they don't look carefully at their employee demographics," said Richard Federico, vice president and work/life practice leader at The Segal Co., a benefits consulting firm based in New York. "But many benefits today are for everyone: fitness, recreation, tuition reimbursement, financial and estate planning, elder care and volunteer time off."

Federico has a solution to this problem, however. "The point I always make to employers is: Do some research," he said. "Just ask employees what their needs are."


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Marriage: an institution in flux

A story released today by the Fox News reports that according to a new survey done by MORI on the state of marriage in Britain, the seven year itch really does exists. But women get itchier than men.

The MORI poll of nearly 1,000 married adults for the Reader's Digest was hailed by relationship experts as an insight into changing roles.

When asked "Have you ever wished you could just wake up one morning and not be married any more?," one in five wives said yes, as opposed to one in seven husbands.

Twice as many wives as husbands, at around one in seven, also said that they wanted to "live on my own for a while." Again, the biggest danger period for this feeling was around seven years, along with the first year of marriage.

By contrast, a third of men, slightly more than women, said that they wished they could spend more time with their spouse, and men aged under 34 were particularly worried about not seeing enough of their wives.

Men were also more likely than women to say that they wished they could ask their partners to be more affectionate, and talk more about their sex life.

Denise Knowles, a relationship counselor for Relate, said that the findings were a snapshot of an institution in flux.

"What we're beginning to see is an pendulum swing, with lots of men wanting to talk about emotional things, while women become less family orientated," she said.

There is, however, an optimistic note. While 6 percent of husbands and wives dreamt of having an affair, double that said that they aspired to own a dog. By the time a couple were middle-aged, the wish to own a dog was nearly five times greater than the temptations of a lover.

"This is an excellent sign, because a dog represents a life of stability and roses around the door. It's really romantic stuff," said Ms Knowles.


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Divorce lawyers predict increasing problems in holiday visitations

A story released today by PRNewswire reports that the nation's top divorce lawyers say that in the wake of recent events in our nation, holiday visitation schedules for children of divorced parents have become more difficult.

"Holidays are always a stressful time for children and parents of divorce. This season is more stressful than ever in the wake of September 11," said Lindsey Short, Jr. of Houston, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the nation's top 1,600 divorce and matrimonial law attorneys.

Not only are many children more fearful of flying, but many adults are also fearful of putting their children unaccompanied on flights, creating increased problems for holiday visits.

In addition, a number of airlines have restricted traveling minors to non-stop flights only, while increased security means additional time and work for parents. And finally, whether real or imagined, a number of spouses see September 11 as a convenient excuse for reneging on agreed upon visitation with their children.

Barbara Handschu of Buffalo, New York who chairs the Academy's Special Interests of Children, says the weak economy is also making it difficult for some spouses to afford long-distance visitation.

"The most important thing is to keep the child's interest foremost. The last place the child wants to be, and for that matter we want to be, is in court during the holidays," adds Handschu.


Monday, December 17, 2001

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Coping with grief in the holiday season

A story released today by Ascribe News reports that holiday season often proves to be more painful and difficult for people who have lost a loved one, through death, divorce, or even relocation. Rituals that brought joy in years past serve instead as stark reminders of missing loved ones.

"Holidays can reawaken the grieving process," says Marianne Wamboldt, M.D., Director of the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. "It can be extremely painful. But there are ways to cope, things you can do to get through the holidays and even to find comfort."

Many people try to bury their grief and generate false cheer during an inevitably sad time. But that is the worst thing you can do, says Wamboldt. Ignoring the loss will not make it go away; it will only prolong the pain. Wamboldt suggests that people should acknowledge that holidays during the first year will be difficult, and that they should take that into account when making plans.

Wamboldt also suggests that people should set aside some time to remember the lost loved one. When stockings are hung, during a special meal, or at some other holiday gathering, give people a chance to talk about fond memories and sad feelings for a limited time period so that mourning doesn't overwhelm the entire holiday.

A new ritual can serve as a positive way to remember and honor the lost loved one. Wamboldt said her family assembled a puzzle in the week between Christmas and the New Year in the first year after her grandmother died, and have done it every year since. Working on the puzzle serves as an easy way for family members to spend time together, keeping busy with their hands and talking if they want or just quietly being together. Several years later, it is an enjoyable ritual that brings their grandmother to mind because they started it the year she died.


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