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NEWS -- 2009.01.01.Thursday

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  • James Martin
    1) Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds 2) Atheists Sue to Get Prayer, God Out of Obama s Swearing-In 3) Virgin conception would be more
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2009
      1) Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds
      2) Atheists Sue to Get Prayer, God Out of Obama's Swearing-In
      3) Virgin conception would be more plausible if Mary was a man


      New Lang Syne 2008 (Thank God It's Over)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkkCJpJiEhk
      from http://www.filmstripinternational.com/

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Auld Lang Syne
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWgnFIPn9oU&NR=1


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      1)
      As expected --->

      Washington Post
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122801588.html

      Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds
      Teenagers Who Make Such Promises Are Just as Likely to Have Sex, and Less Likely to Use Protection, the Data Indicate

      By Rob Stein
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Monday, December 29, 2008; A02



      Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

      The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

      "Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

      The study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage, including those that specifically ask students to publicly declare their intention to remain virgins. The new analysis, however, goes beyond earlier analyses by focusing on teens who had similar values about sex and other issues before they took a virginity pledge.

      "Previous studies would compare a mixture of apples and oranges," Rosenbaum said. "I tried to pull out the apples and compare only the apples to other apples."

      The findings are reigniting the debate about the effectiveness of abstinence-focused sexual education just as Congress and the new Obama administration are about to reconsider the more than $176 million in annual funding for such programs.

      "This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs," said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active -- and most do well before marriage -- they don't protect themselves or their partners?"

      James Wagoner of the advocacy group Advocates for Youth agreed: "The Democratic Congress needs to get its head out of the sand and get real about sex education in America."

      Proponents of such programs, however, dismissed the study as flawed and argued that programs that focus on abstinence go much further than simply asking youths to make a one-time promise to remain virgins.

      "It is remarkable that an author who employs rigorous research methodology would then compromise those standards by making wild, ideologically tainted and inaccurate analysis regarding the content of abstinence education programs," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association.

      Rosenbaum analyzed data collected by the federal government's National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which gathered detailed information from a representative sample of about 11,000 students in grades seven through 12 in 1995, 1996 and 2001.

      Although researchers have analyzed data from that survey before to examine abstinence education programs, the new study is the first to use a more stringent method to account for other factors that could influence the teens' behavior, such as their attitudes about sex before they took the pledge.

      Rosenbaum focused on about 3,400 students who had not had sex or taken a virginity pledge in 1995. She compared 289 students who were 17 years old on average in 1996, when they took a virginity pledge, with 645 who did not take a pledge but were otherwise similar. She based that judgment on about 100 variables, including their attitudes and their parents' attitudes about sex and their perception of their friends' attitudes about sex and birth control.

      "This study came about because somebody who decides to take a virginity pledge tends to be different from the average American teenager. The pledgers tend to be more religious. They tend to be more conservative. They tend to be less positive about sex. There are some striking differences," Rosenbaum said. "So comparing pledgers to all non-pledgers doesn't make a lot of sense."

      By 2001, Rosenbaum found, 82 percent of those who had taken a pledge had retracted their promises, and there was no significant difference in the proportion of students in both groups who had engaged in any type of sexual activity, including giving or receiving oral sex, vaginal intercourse, the age at which they first had sex, or their number of sexual partners. More than half of both groups had engaged in various types of sexual activity, had an average of about three sexual partners and had had sex for the first time by age 21 even if they were unmarried.

      "It seems that pledgers aren't really internalizing the pledge," Rosenbaum said. "Participating in a program doesn't appear to be motivating them to change their behavior. It seems like abstinence has to come from an individual conviction rather than participating in a program."

      While there was no difference in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the two groups, the percentage of students who reported condom use was about 10 points lower for those who had taken the pledge, and they were about 6 percentage points less likely to use any form of contraception. For example, about 24 percent of those who had taken a pledge said they always used a condom, compared with about 34 percent of those who had not.

      Rosenbaum attributed the difference to what youths learn about condoms in abstinence-focused programs.

      "There's been a lot of work that has found that teenagers who take part in abstinence-only education have more negative views about condoms," she said. "They tend not to give accurate information about condoms and birth control."

      But Huber disputed that charge.

      "Abstinence education programs provide accurate information on the level of protection offered through the typical use of condoms and contraception," she said. "Students understand that while condoms may reduce the risk of infection and/or pregnancy, they do not remove the risk."

      ---


      View all comments that have been posted about this article.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122801588_Comments.html

      ----------

      Comments received from friends ---

      Now will they learn that you only get a low incidence of teenage
      pregnancies in countries that teach extensive sex education in primary
      schools. We here in the UK are just as much to blame as you are, as we
      are too prudish to teach it properly. As a result, we have the highest
      incidence of teenage pregnancies in Europe.

      ---

      I've been thinking about the whole inspiration for "abstinence-only" sex ed. programs.

      The people behind these efforts are...you already know this...the religious right.

      Something I have observed about these people and their world-view...they are positively obsessive about sex. What I refer to here is the sheer volume of commentary about sex in their sermons, emails, dispatches, books, and Sunday School classes. I almost regret that I cut off some email correspondents who were "hell-bent" on saving my soul. I used to get reams of this stuff.

      Suppose the "abstinence-only" programs concluded with something like: "If you can't resist, then at least use a condom." But it was the condom that was singled out as the worst possible alternative...not yielding to sexual impulses. Condoms, you see, thwart the Will of God. So, it's better to deal with an unwanted pregnancy than ever thwarting God's will.

      I can't resist an example of the sort of messages I used to get from fundamentalists. Seems a Christian businessman was working late at his office one night. He leaves for home, and as he's unlocking his car, he hears a woman screaming in the parking lot. The lot is well lighted, and other people are there. He decides it's "none of his business", and besides, someone else will respond to her cries. He gets home and finds his daughter has not returned from her date. (You guessed it...)the crying woman was his own daughter.

      I used to get so much of this stuff I finally told one fundy woman to stop sending it to me...ever again.

      But all of her messages...and from her friends too...were all concerned with rape, sexual psychopaths, serial killers whose motivations were sexual, and all were aimed at the idea that good Christians would be the only ones to raise children to avoid these pitfalls.

      Not one of their messages spoke of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving comfort to the oppressed. And, naturally, I also felt their little homilies were invented out of whole cloth.

      But the fixation against condoms seems, to me, the most astonishing.

      ---

      Apparently, teenagers getting pregnant nowadays are more acceptable than birth control - like Bristol Palin (wonder if the boyfriend is actually going to marry her now). When I was in school in the 80s - if you got pregnant, you had an abortion or you disappeared from school completely. Now it's commonplace to have several girls walking around high school with child and most of the time they are not even with the same boyfriend that got them that way!

      These abstinence only sex ed programs are just beyond ignorance. When are people going to learn?

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      2)
      Washington Post
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/30/AR2008123002858.html
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/30/AR2008123002858.html?hpid=sec=religion

      Atheists Sue to Get Prayer, God Out of Obama's Swearing-In

      By Nikita Stewart
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Wednesday, December 31, 2008; B03



      A group of atheists, led by a California man known for challenging the use of the words "under God" in recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools, filed a lawsuit yesterday to bar prayer and references to God at the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama.

      Michael A. Newdow, 17 other individuals and 10 groups representing atheists sued Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., several officials in charge of inaugural festivities, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and megachurch pastor Rick Warren. They filed the complaint in U.S. District Court.

      Newdow failed in similar lawsuits to remove prayer from President Bush's swearing-in ceremonies in 2001 and 2005.

      Roberts will administer the oath of office to Obama at the Jan. 20 ceremony. Warren and Lowery are scheduled to deliver the invocation and benediction, respectively.

      Newdow and others also argue that the phrase "so help me God," used consistently in inaugural oaths since the swearing-in of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, should be stricken, saying it is not part of the oath as specified in the Constitution.

      Bob Ritter, staff attorney for the American Humanist Association and counsel for the suit, said in an interview that the group could win "as long as the judges uphold the Constitution."

      "We think the law is on our side," he said.

      Ritter said the lawsuit targets the oath, the invocation and the benediction.

      According to the lawsuit, the opening and ending prayers "are completely exclusionary, showing absolute disrespect to Plaintiffs and others of similar religious views, who explicitly reject the purely religious claims that will be endorsed, i.e., (a) there exists a God, and (b) the United States government should pay homage to that God."

      The legal move is the latest controversy surrounding the swearing-in. Gay-rights advocates and liberal groups were outraged by Obama's selection of Warren, who endorsed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. Conservatives, meanwhile, have criticized Warren for agreeing to appear at the inauguration.

      Scott Walter, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, called the lawsuit a "publicity stunt" in a statement yesterday. The Becket Fund promotes free expression of religion and has opposed Newdow's Pledge of Allegiance efforts.

      "Newdow's lawsuit over the inauguration is a lot like the streaker at the Super Bowl: a pale, self-absorbed distraction. And anybody who looks at it carefully can see there's not much there," Walter said.

      ---

      Lots of comments
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/30/AR2008123002858_Comments.html


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



      Science Blog
      The Guardian
      London

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2008/dec/30/virgin-birth-mary

      Virgin conception would be more plausible if Mary was a man
      Could testicular feminisation offer an explanation for the mystery of Jesus Christ's virgin birth, wonders
      Aarathi Prasad
      What would it be like if women could have babies on their own? As a single mother, I thought it would be fabulous to have the option of another child without first having to find the right man. You can hear my investigation of the science of virgin birth on New Year's Day on BBC Radio 4.

      I went to Catholic schools as a child, and so spent many years with the nuns contemplating the miracle of Mary's virgin pregnancy [corrected]. Hers is the best known story of a virgin birth in the world, but it is by no means the only one. From the mothers of Buddha to Genghis Khan, most cultures tell the tale of a maiden untouched by man who gives birth.

      In the 3rd century AD, the influential Greek church father Origen dismissed the legend of the immaculate conception of Plato, but worked hard to promote Mary's virginity:

      There is a certain female animal which has no intercourse with the male (as writers on animals say is the case with vultures), and that this animal, without sexual intercourse, preserves the succession of the race. What incredibility, therefore, is there in supposing that, if God wished to send a divine teacher to the human race, He caused Him to be born in some manner different from the common!"

      As far as we know, vultures don't have virgin births - that observation may have had something to do with the fact that in some species of vulture, males and females are tricky to tell apart. However, what science told us back in 1984 was that human females certainly could never have a natural virgin birth, because of a genetic barrier in mammals called imprinting.

      So Origen was right - if Jesus was going to have a human mother but no human father, there had to be something rather interesting going on. But what?

      Sam Berry, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, explained to me what he calls the biological "implausible possibilities" for how Mary could have given birth to a son while remaining a virgin.

      The keen reader will have spotted two biological roadblocks: the lack of a father, and the fact that Jesus was male. While Mary should not have been able to sire a son through a virgin birth, your Christmas turkey could - at least in theory.

      In humans, a virgin birth would mean that a woman's eggs develop successfully without sperm. This presents a sex chromosome problem. In mammals, females are XX while males are XY so a woman should never be able to provide the necessary Y chromosome genes to produce a son. They can only come from a father.

      In turkeys, sex determination is different. Females have Z and W chromosomes, while males are ZZ. So mother turkeys do have the genetic stuff for making males, although there may be other barriers to a "virgin birth".

      That's fine for turkeys, but is there any earthly way Mary could have done it? One possibility, according to Prof Berry, is that Mary may have had a condition called testicular feminisation. Women with this condition have an X and a Y chromosome like a man, but their X chromosome carries a mutation that makes their bodies insensitive to testosterone. This leads to their developing as a female.

      Genetically male, and probably sporting ambiguous genitals, Mary would have been sterile. But had she become pregnant spontaneously, her child could have inherited an intact Y chromosome.

      To stop him developing as a female, like his mother, Jesus would have needed what geneticists call a "back mutation" - a highly unlikely reverse of the X chromosome glitch that caused the testicular feminisation in the first place. Other possibilities to explain the virgin birth include Mary being a genetic mosaic, formed from twins that fused into one body while maintaining chromosomes from both, Y and all.

      You could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific possibilities are no more plausible than a miracle. If there needs to be a rational explanation for the stories generated around Jesus' birth, we are perhaps more likely to find it in a Biblical mistranslation or through a liaison between Mary and man who was not Joseph.

      Still, when it comes to having babies without males, the hand of God now seems redundant. Zoologists have long known that there are many species that can reproduce without sex, and have now started to discover that it can also happen in the most unexpected places. In the last five years the list of virgin mothers has expanded to include a python, hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, and Komodo dragons. As the British zookeeper who discovered virgin births in Komodos put it, rather like buses, you wait ages and then loads of them come along all at once.

      Similar things are now happening in the laboratory, with scientists creating healthy, fertile mice with no fathers. The fact that they were able to make such animals means that we can now get over the genetic barriers to a mammalian virgin birth - in mice at least. Who knows, one day a virgin birth in humans may not be so implausible after all.

      ---

      Dr Aarathi Prasad began her career researching cancer genetics at Imperial College London. She now works in science policy and communication and is writing a book about reproduction without men. The Quest for Virgin Birth is on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on New Year's Day.

      ---

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00g47r0 (listen for up to seven days)
      Geneticist Aarathi Prasad explores the natural phenomenon known as parthenogenesis, or virgin birth.

      Thanks to a breakthrough in DNA profiling, scientists have found that some species, including sharks, turkeys and komodo dragons, practice parthenogenesis if their survival is threatened. Aarathi explores the ethical and biological implications should new embryonic stem cell technologies be employed to also make it an option for humans.

      ---

      Lots of comments at the URL.

      ***

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Vega Alopex
      What REALLY irritates me is that absolutely ridiculous Catholic doctrine that masturbation is a mortal sin. I came over this ourtrage on You Tube when I
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 1, 2009
        What REALLY irritates me is that absolutely ridiculous Catholic
        doctrine that masturbation is a mortal sin. I came over this
        ourtrage on You Tube when I stumbled over the case that Salvation is
        NOT by Faith Alone. This propaganda also included the
        delusional "Non salus ex ecclesia" : There is no salvation outside
        the Catholic Church. While I agree with the argument against
        salvation by faith alone, which I ran across in 1980 when studying
        Martin Luther, I find the snootiness otherwise out in the Middle Ages.
        If only John Patrick Day were here to explain it!
        >
        > 1)
        >
        > Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as
        likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence
        and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of
        birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
        >
        3
        My problem with virginity is that the Catholic hierarchy has raised
        it to sainthood. They even proclaim Mary as ever virgin, thus
        violating the Jewish Law of married couples to replace themselves.
        Of course, Michael Servetus ended his life at the stake of Jean
        Chauvin in Geneva for questioning the virgin birth, among others such
        as the Trinity.
        Nonetheless, it is one absurdity to raise a zygote into a full human
        being, and another to raise sperm into a mass of humanity.
        The locals think I want to return to Catholicism just because I
        filled out a household survey. Yes, I went through all four
        sacraments, but I also checked off no Catholics live here!


        > I went to Catholic schools as a child, and so spent many years with
        the nuns contemplating the miracle of Mary's virgin pregnancy
        [corrected]. Hers is the best known story of a virgin birth in the
        world, but it is by no means the only one. From the mothers of Buddha
        to Genghis Khan, most cultures tell the tale of a maiden untouched by
        man who gives birth.
        >
        > In the 3rd century AD, the influential Greek church father Origen
        dismissed the legend of the immaculate conception of Plato, but
        worked hard to promote Mary's virginity:
        >
        > There is a certain female animal which has no intercourse with
        the male (as writers on animals say is the case with vultures), and
        that this animal, without sexual intercourse, preserves the
        succession of the race. What incredibility, therefore, is there in
        supposing that, if God wished to send a divine teacher to the human
        race, He caused Him to be born in some manner different from the
        common!"
        >
        > As far as we know, vultures don't have virgin births - that
        observation may have had something to do with the fact that in some
        species of vulture, males and females are tricky to tell apart.
        However, what science told us back in 1984 was that human females
        certainly could never have a natural virgin birth, because of a
        genetic barrier in mammals called imprinting.
        >
        > So Origen was right - if Jesus was going to have a human mother but
        no human father, there had to be something rather interesting going
        on. But what?
        >
        > Sam Berry, emeritus professor of genetics at University College
        London, explained to me what he calls the biological "implausible
        possibilities" for how Mary could have given birth to a son while
        remaining a virgin.
        >
        > The keen reader will have spotted two biological roadblocks: the
        lack of a father, and the fact that Jesus was male. While Mary should
        not have been able to sire a son through a virgin birth, your
        Christmas turkey could - at least in theory.
        >
        > In humans, a virgin birth would mean that a woman's eggs develop
        successfully without sperm. This presents a sex chromosome problem.
        In mammals, females are XX while males are XY so a woman should never
        be able to provide the necessary Y chromosome genes to produce a son.
        They can only come from a father.
        >
        > In turkeys, sex determination is different. Females have Z and W
        chromosomes, while males are ZZ. So mother turkeys do have the
        genetic stuff for making males, although there may be other barriers
        to a "virgin birth".
        >
        > That's fine for turkeys, but is there any earthly way Mary could
        have done it? One possibility, according to Prof Berry, is that Mary
        may have had a condition called testicular feminisation. Women with
        this condition have an X and a Y chromosome like a man, but their X
        chromosome carries a mutation that makes their bodies insensitive to
        testosterone. This leads to their developing as a female.
        >
        > Genetically male, and probably sporting ambiguous genitals, Mary
        would have been sterile. But had she become pregnant spontaneously,
        her child could have inherited an intact Y chromosome.
        >
        > To stop him developing as a female, like his mother, Jesus would
        have needed what geneticists call a "back mutation" - a highly
        unlikely reverse of the X chromosome glitch that caused the
        testicular feminisation in the first place. Other possibilities to
        explain the virgin birth include Mary being a genetic mosaic, formed
        from twins that fused into one body while maintaining chromosomes
        from both, Y and all.
        >
        > You could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific
        possibilities are no more plausible than a miracle. If there needs to
        be a rational explanation for the stories generated around Jesus'
        birth, we are perhaps more likely to find it in a Biblical
        mistranslation or through a liaison between Mary and man who was not
        Joseph.
        >
        > Still, when it comes to having babies without males, the hand of
        God now seems redundant. Zoologists have long known that there are
        many species that can reproduce without sex, and have now started to
        discover that it can also happen in the most unexpected places. In
        the last five years the list of virgin mothers has expanded to
        include a python, hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, and Komodo
        dragons. As the British zookeeper who discovered virgin births in
        Komodos put it, rather like buses, you wait ages and then loads of
        them come along all at once.
        >
        > Similar things are now happening in the laboratory, with scientists
        creating healthy, fertile mice with no fathers. The fact that they
        were able to make such animals means that we can now get over the
        genetic barriers to a mammalian virgin birth - in mice at least. Who
        knows, one day a virgin birth in humans may not be so implausible
        after all.
        >
        > ---
        >
        > Dr Aarathi Prasad began her career researching cancer genetics at
        Imperial College London. She now works in science policy and
        communication and is writing a book about reproduction without men.
        The Quest for Virgin Birth is on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on New Year's
        Day.
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