THURSDAY, 23 APRIL 2009

Hillary Clinton clarifies what ‘reproductive health’ includes

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Just like “family planning”, “reproductive health” is an innocent sounding term fraught with (deliberate) ambiguity. The things it includes tend to be in the fine print of NGO and UN documents where “maternal mortality” and “unsafe abortion” are juxtaposed to imply a need to legalise abortion. Those who do not see abortion as a health or family planning measure are left to ask the hard questions about the meaning of draft UN documents and the like. Does “reproductive health/services/rights” include abortion, or doesn’t it?

Now US congressman Chris Smith has cleared up any doubt that it does. Yesterday, as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"And so we have total transparency, does the United States' definition of the term 1) "reproductive health" or 2) "reproductive services" or 3) "reproductive rights" include abortion?"

She answered:

click here to read whole article and make comments

 

WEDNESDAY, 22 APRIL 2009

The right to name a child

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As if there weren’t enough rules about parenthood in one-child China, the government there is bent on curbing the possibilities for naming a child. A young woman whose grandfather went to some trouble to find her a unique, or at least uncommon given name -- a rare character pronounced “Cheng” -- has been told by officialdom that her name is “troublesome and problematic” and that she will have to change it.

The problem arises because the Public Security Bureau is replacing the handwritten identity card that every Chinese must carry (more rules) with a computer-readable one, complete with colour photo and embedded microchip. The bureau’s computers, however, are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters. So Ma Cheng and at least some of the 60 million other Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new cards unless they change their names.

One can… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 20 APRIL 2009

Impulsive in kindergarten, prone to gambling later

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The importance of the early years in shaping a child’s personality is borne out by much research. A Canadian longitudinal study has found that the more impulsive a kindergarten child is, the more likely they are to indulge in games of chance by sixth grade (age 11-12).

The results were based on complete data for 163 children who came from intact families (in kindergarten, at least) and were adjusted for influences such as parental gambling. To be exact: a 1-unit increase in kindergarten impulsivity corresponded to a 25 per cent increase in later, self-reported child involvement in gambling. The researchers say:

“It is suggested that developmentally continuous risks associated with early impulsivity place individuals on a risk trajectory toward excessive gambling involvement in adolescence and emerging adulthood.”

In other words, parents who foster habits of self-control from the earliest years can save their children… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

SATURDAY, 18 APRIL 2009

That’s Rich: an expert explains why parents don’t matter much

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Many professionals act as though parents were of little importance to the development of their children, but child development theorist Judith Rich Harris has actually written whole books about why that is the case. That would not matter very much except that, as she points out in an interview with Scientific American, “My work is now cited in many psychology textbooks and assigned in college courses.” The fact that most developmental psychologists don’t agree with her does not stop her from being influential.

In The Nurture Assumption, published 10 years ago, Harris argued that peers have much more influence than parents on “Why Children Turn Out The Way They Do” (subtitle). She claimed that research showing the opposite (“the nurture assumption”) is “so deeply flawed that it is meaningless”. In a more recent book, No Two Alike, she explains away personality resemblances between parents and children by putting them down… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 15 APRIL 2009

Car seat belts and AIDS in Africa

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What have those two things got to do with each other?

Still thinking? Well, this month’s Smithsonian magazine has the answer.

It is 50 years since the invention of the three-point car seat belt by Nils Bohlin for the Volvo company -- possibly the most effective safety device ever. Experts estimate that it has saved at least a million lives and spared millions of others life-altering injuries -- or has it? An analysis conducted in the US in 1975 concluded that while federal auto-safety standards had saved the lives of some vehicle occupants, they had also led to the deaths of pedestrians, cyclists and other non-occupants. A study of seat belts in the UK in 1981 found there was no overall decrease in highway fatalities.

The explanation for these counter-intuitive results seems to be that when drivers feel safer in their vehicles they take more risks. Behavioural scientists… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 14 APRIL 2009

All over Rover

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Photo: Michael Nagel for New York Times“Jobs are disappearing. Mortgage payments are looming. Change is everywhere, but your dog remains steadfast. So, why not spend some time together?” asks a Manhattan teacher.

Sure. It’s the most natural thing in the world: take your dog for a walk and forget your troubles. Except that in this instance the lady does not mean walk, or run, the dog. She means take him to yoga class and bond with him through meditative bends and stretches or just by lying doggo on a mat. Do have a look at the slide show on the New York Times page.

It’s the sort of fad we’ve learned to expect among childless Japanese career women, but doga is catching on in American cities too -- perhaps for the same reason. Kari Harendorf, quoted above, teaches… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

FRIDAY, 10 APRIL 2009

Does Obama’s education reform include parent choice?

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A scheme offering school choice to some low-income families in the United States has been voted down by the Democrat majority in Congress, even though a pilot programme in Washington DC is showing good results. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Education suppressed a report showing year-on-year improvements among kids who won vouchers to attend private schools, even while Congress passed legislation that would end the programme after next year -- and the President signed it.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides $7,500 vouchers to 1,700 low-income families in D.C. to send their children to private schools. Ninety-nine percent of the children are black or Hispanic, and there are more than four applicants for each scholarship,” says the Journal in an editorial.

“The 2008 report demonstrated progress among certain subgroups of children but not everyone. This year's report shows statistically significant academic gains for the entire… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 8 APRIL 2009

Breakdown Britain’s ‘little monsters’

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It has happened before in Britain, but last weekend’s horror story of two children almost doing two others to death lost none of its shock value for all that. Two brothers, aged 10 and 11, set upon two other boys, aged 11 and 9, on the outskirts of an English village, bashing, slashing and burning them as well as stealing their money, mobile phones and trainers. The nine-year-old was found, barefoot and soaked in blood, wandering along a street in town. The 11-year-old was found unconscious with his scalp slashed.

Comment has been flowing freely in an attempt to understand what turns some children into “little monsters” or even “incarnations of evil”. Nicci Gerrard in the Daily Telegraph sees the fact that the attackers were newly arrived in a care facility in the town as significant -- and it surely is. Family breakdown is the cause of much -- most… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 8 APRIL 2009

A life well worth living

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Here is a great story about a Canadian couple whose first child was born with Canavan disease, a rare, inherited neurodegenerative disorder that usually leads to death by the age of four. Jacob’s condition was diagnosed at two months and his shocked parents, Ellen and Jeff Schwartz, were told that he would never speak, sit up or even see.

Today, Jacob is nearly 12. It’s true that he cannot sit up or speak, but he smiles and makes a range of appropriate noises as he lies on his mat. When his dad lies next to him and yells at the hockey game on television, Jacob howls laughing. He goes to a special school, and at home enjoys hearing his younger sister and brother playing around him in the garden while he lies in a swing. It says a lot for his parents that they decided to have more children given the… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

FRIDAY, 3 APRIL 2009

An Evangelical movement that leaves family planning to God

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Swanson family. Barbara Bradley Hagerty/NPRThe United States birth rate is rising and Evangelical families in the Quiverfull movement (named after a verse of Psalm 127) are playing their part in the trend -- to the alarm of the greens, no doubt. A few weeks after the New York Times looked at the subject of large families, National Public Radio has run a feature on the movement, which comprises about 10,000 families, mainly in the Midwest and South of the United States.

NPR interviewed some families in Michigan. Kelly Swanson and husband Jeff say they didn’t want any children when they first married, but then began to notice that the Bible gave special value to big families. Now they have seven children and would like more. They are leaving it up to God to decide how many they can handle. The average family at their church has… 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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