Time to show mercy to young offenders

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The United States House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on a bill that calls for parole reviews for juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment, says a press release from Baylor University. Did you take that in? Currently there are youths in American prisons serving life sentences with no chance of parole. Unbelievable!

Currently, the United States is one of only two countries in the world known to sentence offenders under aged 18 to life without parole. More than 2,500 youth offenders are currently serving such sentences in the U.S., and the estimated rate at which the sentence of life without parole is imposed on children nationwide remains at least three times higher today than it was 15 years ago. Black children are 10 times more likely to receive a life-without-parole sentence than white children.

Baylor law professor Mark Osler will be giving testimony today, urging that… click here to read whole article and make comments



Married, with children, pays

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Money talks at the Economist, and the talk in this item from May, which has just been brought to our attention, is that in most of the developed world it pays to be married with children. That is because most governments offer some form of tax breaks or cash benefits to offset the cost of bringing up children.

In all but one of the 30 OECD countries, a married, one-earner couple with two children takes home more money than a single person with no children on the same annual salary. On that basis, the best countries for families are Ireland or the Czech Republic, where “net” incomes end up higher than gross. Mexico is the only OECD country where married couples with children get no breaks at all.

Lots of comments on this article, including the expected quota of moans about the cost of children, and from pessimists… click here to read whole article and make comments



Wrong girl, Archie!

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Archie Comics Publications IncStunning, heart-breaking news: Archie Andrews is going to get married, and he has chosen the wrong girl. Archie Comics Publications has announced that he will soon pop the question to wealthy beauty Veronica Lodge in the 600th book in the series, due to arrive in September. Betty won’t be the only one crying her eyes out.

So help me, I had no idea the series was still running. I read my older brother’s Archie comics as a kid in 1950s -- and that is where I thought Archie, Ronnie and Betty had stayed. Just think of it; they’ve been teenagers for 68 years, locked in a triangle that Alyssa Rosenberg at The Atlantic reckons should stay eternal:

But Archie could never really choose between Betty and Veronica, not because each was too impossibly perfect to resist, but because each girl was half… click here to read whole article and make comments



Fighting parents drive teens to drink

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The research is clear: adolescents tend to fare better -- academically and behaviourally -- when they live with both biological parents. And that’s a couple of scientists talking. But there is an exception: when their parents frequently argue, young adults are much more likely to binge on alcohol; they also tend to smoke, and their poor school grades are similar to those of peers who don’t have their own mum and dad at home.

The findings, which, at first blush, are disappointing to marriage advocates, come from a study of teenagers in 1,963 households in the US National Survey of Families and Households who were followed up through to their early 30s. Cornell professor Kelly Musick compared those who lived with married parents who often fought, with those living in stepfather or single-mother households.

“Our results clearly illustrate that the advantages of living with two continuously married… click here to read whole article and make comments



Imaginary friends are natural

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Are children who have imaginary friends a little abnormal? Are they compensating for a lack of real friends or for some internal malaise? Not at all, according to Australian researchers at La Trobe University. In fact, it seems to come naturally to the majority of children to invent an invisible companion. What’s more, it gives them better social skills than those who don’t.

Dr Evan Kidd and colleague Anna Roby studied 44 children and found that the 22 who had imaginary friends were better able to get their point across to others.

“Children with imaginary friends have a lot of practice at inventing interactions between their imaginary friends and themselves,” said Dr Kidd. “We think that this is what facilitates their development of conversational skills – being in charge of both sides of the conversation.”

The fact that these children were generally first-born… click here to read whole article and make comments



Hollywood cleans up teen movie language

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Is it a bit of Harry Potter magic? While profanity is increasing on television and in music lyrics, some Brigham Young University researchers have been pleasantly surprised to discover that it has markedly decreased since the 1980s in movies aimed at teens.

The communications professors looked at top-grossing movies rated G, PG and PG-13 -- 30 from each of the past three decades -- that featured teen characters or had plots that revolved around teenagers. These included 1980s hits Back to the Future, Honey I Shrank the Kids and Karate Kid, 1990s flicks Casper, She’s All That and Clueless and 2000s movies Spider Man, Harry Potter and Remember the Titans.

They found that the trend over the last three decades shows a decrease in usage across nearly all profanity types, including sexual profanity, strong profanity and mild profanity. Researchers found the trend both within ratings groups and… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 29 MAY 2009

Where’s the will to reduce maternal deaths?

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It is easy, when enthusing about family life, to forget that motherhood is a very risky and often fatal thing for hundreds of thousands of women in the developing world. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth kill more than 536,000 women a year, more than half of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation. Most of the deaths are preventable with basic obstetrical care, but there are shortages of hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, drugs, equipment, roads and transportation.

At one rural hospital in Tanzania, a trained medical assistant performs a Caesarean operation to deliver a baby after the mother has been in labour for two days. It takes the nurse 5 to 10 minutes of vigorous resuscitation to get him breathing normally and crying.

“There are many nights like this at the hospital here, 6 miles from the nearest paved road and 25 miles from the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Teenage hugging epidemic

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Is it an expression of a nurturing concern for the others? Or is the outbreak of hugging amongst teenagers an empty fad that thrives in today’s atmosphere of boundless informality? Whatever is behind it, hugging is hip with teens.

Parents, who grew up in a generation more likely to use the handshake, the low-five or the high-five, are often baffled by the close physical contact. “It’s a wordless custom, from what I’ve observed,” wrote Beth J. Harpaz, the mother of two boys, 11 and 16, and a parenting columnist for The Associated Press, in a new book, “13 Is the New 18.”

But the sight of kids embracing every time they run into their pals is beginning to get on teachers’ nerves. Some schools have banned it; others have imposed a three-second rule. There are concerns about litigation if some of the boy-girl hugging gets out of hand.… click here to read whole article and make comments



‘Mum, Dad, where are you? I need to talk’

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It’s Youth Week in New Zealand and a survey of almost 10,000 students at 96 secondary schools shows that more than half of them want to spend more time with their parents.

Some 54 per cent “sometimes” or “hardly ever” get enough time with their mothers and 61 per cent sometimes or hardly ever get enough time with their dads. This is “big stuff”, says Auckland University researcher Simon Denny. “Having a close relationship with a parent is one of the most important predictors of good health and wellbeing for young people.”

An important reason for not seeing enough of one or other parent is family breakdown. Only 73 per cent of students in 2007 lived in their main home with two “parents” -- and that included step-parents. Some 29 per cent of students said they lived in more than one home, usually spending part of the time… click here to read whole article and make comments


TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2009

Two divorces, a new partner, and the great mortgage meltdown

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Here’s a telling family angle on the Great Mortgage Meltdown in the United States: two divorced people get together and start up a new household in a very expensive house while he is paying more than half his take-home pay in alimony and child-support and she hasn’t even got a job. But the bank says, “No Problem!” -- or, at least, none that we can’t get around.

The irony of it is that he, Edmund L. Andrews, is an economics reporter for the New York Times and has even written “early-warning articles in 2004 about the spike in go-go mortgages” and knew “a lot about the curveballs that the economy can throw at us.”

But in 2004, I joined millions of otherwise-sane Americans in what we now know was a catastrophic binge on overpriced real estate and reckless mortgages. Nobody duped or hypnotized me. Like so many… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@ mercatornet.com

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