Friday, May 24th, 2013
Teen birth rates have been declining steadily in recent years, but they now have shown marked declines in virtually every U.S. state, especially in the Mountain states and especially among the Hispanic population, according to a new government report. More from The Associated Press:
All states but West Virginia and North Dakota showed significant drops over five years. But the Mountain States of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah saw rates fall by 30 percent or more.
In 22 states, teen Hispanic birth rates plunged at least 40 percent, which was described as “just amazing,” by the report’s lead author, Brady Hamilton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What’s driving the declines? No one can say for sure. Experts believe the explanation is complicated and probably varies a bit from state to state. The national figure has been falling since 1991, aside from a brief interruption in 2006 and 2007.
The CDC report released Thursday is based on birth certificates for 2007 through 2011. Last year, the CDC announced the overall improvement in teen births: a record low of 31 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19. That compares with 42 births per 1,000 five years earlier.
Image: United States map, via Shutterstock
Friday, May 24th, 2013
On the witness stand at the trial concerning whether yoga classes at the public schools in the Encinitas Union School District in Southern California are legal, Indiana University religious studies professor Candy Brown testified that the program is, essentially, religious in nature and therefore inappropriately defined as a purely physical education program. The San Diego Union-Tribune has more:
The district introduced yoga as a pilot program in 2011 and expanded it to all nine of its schools in January. Funding comes from the KP Jois Foundation, which champions a style of yoga called Ashtanga.
Yoga is part of the campuses’ physical-education offerings, and district officials said students are simply doing stretching exercises with no religious connections. Families uncomfortable with the exercises can have their students opt out.
Some parents said the district should not offer yoga at all because its religious roots can never be eliminated. Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock are suing the district in San Diego Superior Court; they’re being represented by attorney Dean Broyles, president of the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy.
Brown, a professor at Indiana University, began her second day on the witness stand Tuesday morning by recalling the origins of Ashtanga yoga and how they have been modified in Encinitas schools. Quoting from the KP Jois Foundation’s literature and referring to her own research, Brown said the very act of performing yoga moves can be considered religious.
“The purpose of Ashtanga yoga is to become one with Brahma,” she said, referring to a Hindu deity.
Brown also said there is no distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Children in the district’s program do not chant or use terms associated with Hinduism, but Brown said that does not make the yoga secular.
“Jois is very, very clear that the practice may appear physical, but that is very, very wrong,” she said. “It produces spiritual transformation.”
Citing written statements from teachers in the district, Brown said there is evidence that some children have chanted while performing poses. Judge John Meyer suggested that those students may have learned the chants outside of school, but Brown said it still demonstrates that they have an understanding of yoga’s spiritual ties.
Image: Girl doing yoga, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Acne, once the affliction of the pre-teenager, is now affecting younger children, according to new treatment guidelines published this month in the journal Pediatrics. The New York Times reports:
In years past, 12 was considered the lower end of the age range for the start of blackheads and whiteheads. With earlier onset of adrenarche (when the adrenal gland awakens) and menarche (first period), the authors of the guidelines suggest, “there appears to be a downward shift in the age at which acne first appears.”
“I’ve definitely seen a shift,” said Dr. Latanya T. Benjamin, a dermatologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, who did not help draft the guidelines. “It’s not uncommon for a 7- or 9-year-old to walk in with the first signs of acne.”
But whether children are experiencing early, or precocious, puberty has been the subject of scientific debate. A more likely cause of the increase in cases, some experts say, is that parents are less tolerant of acne and doctors more willing to provide powerful acne treatments to children.
Image: Girl covering her face, via Shutterstock
Friday, May 17th, 2013
Feminists in Germany are organizing protests around the opening of a life-sized Barbie-themed house in Berlin, citing gender stereotypes that often follow the famous doll. In February, the first ever Barbie-themed restaurant opened in Taipei, Taiwan, to fanfare and excitement, a very different experience from the Berlin property. More from CNN.com:
Left-wing feminists are protesting the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience — a 27,000-square-foot lifesized pink estate — opening in Berlin on May 16.
Located off the shopping district of Alexanderplatz, the Berlin Dreamhouse is meant to show off Barbie’s Malibu lifestyle.
The pink mansion is full of rooms showcasing how her makeup, kitchen and wardrobe are put together.
In addition to viewing 350 Barbie dolls and other displays, visitors can strut a long runway, “bake” virtual cupcakes in a pink kitchen or eat real ones in the cafe. And, of course, shell out for dolls and products in the gift shop.
Protestors from the Left Party are up in arms over the sexism and shallow materialism that they argue Barbie symbolizes.
“They present an image of cooking, primping and singing, as if it were in some way life-fulfilling,” Socialist Alternative editor Michael Koschitzki, 27, told German newspaper Der Spiegel.
“The Barbie Dreamhouse is the expression of a conventional role model that isn’t OK,” he said.
Barbie has long been a subject of controversy — with criticisms ranging from sexism to racism to creating body image issues for girls.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Legislation that would ban adults from smoking in cars where children in car seats are riding, nicknamed the “Little Lungs” bill, is under consideration in Massachusetts. The website Wicked Local has the story:
Rep. Paul Heroux, a freshman representative from Attleboro, wants to make it illegal to smoke with children in the car, citing health risks from secondhand smoke. Heroux said the proposed law could be enforced in a manner similar to the law banning texting while driving.
“If an officer sees it, you are busted,” Heroux said after testifying Tuesday on his legislation (H 1984), dubbed “an act to protect little lungs” and cosponsored by Reps. Mary Keefe, D-Worcester; Thomas Sannicandro, D-Ashland; and Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge.
Any driver or passenger who violates the law would be subject to a $100 fine. Police officers would not be able to search or inspect a motor vehicle, or its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because the vehicle was pulled over for the smoking violation, according to the legislation, which would apply to vehicles including children who are required to be secured by a child passenger restraint.
Heroux acknowledged his proposal would not be easy to enforce but said he hopes it would make smokers think twice before lighting up with children in the car.
Heroux also said a smoking ban when children are in the car would raise awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke, which led the Legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney to pass a 2004 law banning smoking in most workplaces.
Image: Cigarettes and pacifier, via Shutterstock