- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 23, 2005

Adolescent sex-ed

The adolescent pregnancy prevention Commentary by Joe S. McIlhaney is an inaccurate portrayal of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) report (“Study snubs teen abstinence,” Forum, Sunday).

The AAP report urges pediatricians to encourage adolescents to postpone early sexual activity and encourage parents to educate their children about sexual development, responsible sexuality, decision-making and values.

We considered a wide body of literature in developing the report, including several publications of Dr. McIlhaney’s Medical Institute. Updates were made based on careful review of the scientific evidence, as well as input from a wide spectrum of AAP members.



Most successful prevention programs include multiple and varied approaches to the problem, including both abstinence promotion and contraception information and availability, along with sexuality education, school-completion strategies and job training.

The AAP has continued to evaluate emerging evidence on both sides of the birth control/abstinence debate. The recent disappointing government-released report of abstinence -unless-married programs suggests that fear-based programs and those that focus on condoms’ limitations in prevention of sexually transmitted infections actually have negative consequences for youth.

Current research indicates that encouraging abstinence and urging better use of contraception are compatible goals. Evidence shows that sexuality education that discusses contraception does not increase sexual activity, and programs that emphasize abstinence as the safest and best approach, while also teaching about contraceptives for sexually active youth, do not increase sexual activity. They do improve teens’ knowledge about their own health-care needs.

Supporting teens in making the very best decisions about their health means making sure adolescents and their parents have all the facts, not a biased presentation of scare tactics that result in more unprotected sex, not less.

DR. JONATHAN KLEIN

Chair, Committee on Adolescence

American Academy of Pediatrics

Washington

Death and taxes

Bruce Bartlett’s column ” ‘Death tax’ in final throes?” (Commentary, Wednesday) points out that surveys generally show a preponderance of respondents in favor of doing away with the estate tax, or “death tax.”

It is also undoubtedly true that if the tax is not eliminated, the Democrats will try to increase the rate.

However, Mr. Bartlett’s argument that the empirical evidence shows that wealth is not stagnant is somewhat misleading. Basically, all those studies seem to prove is that some of the poor do, over time, attain some level of wealth. Nobody objects to that, but that has nothing to do with the death tax.

It is the vice-versa that is in question. That “Forty-seven percent of those in the top decile fell to a lower one” may prove only that the death tax is doing its job.

The strongest justification for a death tax is to avoid the establishment, over the long term, of an aristocracy. Unless Bill Gates (and his wife) make other arrangements, a thousand years from now, his heirs will probably still be living quite comfortably off the proceeds of his estate, even with death tax.

There may be some rationale for working hard, to leave something for the living heirs — the children, the grandchildren and perhaps even the great grandchildren — but how many more beyond that?

DENIS ABLES

Vienna

Birds of a feather

John Leo’s column, “About the Hollywood brain” (Commentary, Wednesday), quotes “War of the Worlds” screenwriter David Koepp as saying that, in this Steven Spielberg film, “Martian attackers … represent the American military, while the Americans being slaughtered … represent Iraqi citizens.” I can only conclude Mr. Koepp hasn’t seen his own movie.

My family and I saw this ugly, irritating Tom Cruise vehicle. We agreed it’s about one of those failed child-men Hollywood thinks all guys are. In this case, the child-man is a physical coward thrown into a war. Unable to face his own lack of courage, he projects his terror onto his 10-year-old daughter, constantly frightening her under the guise of “protecting” and “shielding” her. Instead of being allowed to adjust to the “new normal,” the child is gradually driven catatonic. And, meanwhile, the child-man’s adolescent son simply walks out on a father who will not fight back.

The practice even of dull, bad art reveals personal truths about the artist. With all due respect, Mr. Koepp, what “War of the Worlds” is about, clearly and unmistakably, is Hollywood’s yellow streak.

HERB BORKLAND

Columbia

Watch out, Santorum

The article “GOP tries to dissuade Harris” (Page 1, Thursday) says that Sen. Rick Santorum’s seat is endangered in 2006. It is worth noting that the Pennsylvania Republican senator’s re-election bid will continue to be endangered if he persists in introducing legislation such as S1139, a badly written, confusing bill that would place federal inspectors in the homes of dog and cat breeders who produce more than six litters in a year.

The bill is an amendment to the federal Animal Welfare Act, a law that addresses animal welfare in commercial breeding operations, not private homes. the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 1999 that placing federal inspectors in breeders’ homes is an invasion of privacy and is unnecessary (Federal Register, July 19, 1999; pages 38546-38548), and a federal appeals court agreed in 2003 (Doris Day Animal League v. Anne Veneman).

Placing federal inspectors in private homes is hardly typical of Republican ideology or the intent to get government off the backs of American citizens and to devote resources to protecting the homeland.

USDA has enough to do to protect our food supply; it does not need to get bogged down in writing and enforcing rules for home breeders of dogs and cats and definitely doesn’t need to divert money and other resources from food safety concerns in order to do so.

Thousands of animal owners oppose this bill; the senator should heed their anger.

NORMA BENNETT WOOLF

Cincinnati

The Forbes flat tax

According to the first two articles about Steve Forbes’ 17 percent flat-tax proposal (“Americans deserve flat tax,” Op-Ed, Wednesday) and (” ‘A fair and simple flat tax,’ ” Op-Ed, Thursday), there is no mention of deductions of interest paid on home mortgages or contributions to IRA or 401(k) plans. Tax deductibility of home mortgage interest has helped many people to buy homes, which has given America two homeowners for every renter.

Deductions for contributions to IRA and 401(k) plans have stimulated massive private saving for retirement, which is sorely needed 12 years before Social Security runs deficits.

A flat-tax plan without mortgage-interest deduction (at least on one year-round residence) and retirement savings would harshly penalize homeowners and savers, kill the construction industry boom and cut off a major source of funds for the stock market (IRAs and 401(k)s).

Any viable income-tax plan needs to retain these two clearly beneficial features of the current system, or else face massive rejection from taxpayers and Congress.

STEVEN ZELL

West Hartford, Conn.

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