Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Millions cut down," Jan. 17, 2009

Inkblot data

A new study of old data suggests that pledges among youth to abstain from sex until marriage have little impact. The findings, published in the January issue of Pediatrics, rely on information collected throughout the 1990s and indicate that 53 percent of teens who made virginity pledges still engaged in premarital sex as compared to 57 percent among comparable non-pledging teens.

The study also found that among those sexually active, pledging teens were slightly less likely than their non-pledging peers to use birth control, 46 percent to 52 percent. The average age when youth from both groups began having sex was 21.

Report authors believe such figures belie abstinence-only education and provide a mandate for broadening the dissemination of materials on having safer sex. "The results suggest that the virginity pledge does not change sexual behavior," wrote researcher Janet Rosenbaum, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University. "Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially abstinence-only sex education participants."

But doesn't that conclusion betray authorial bias? According to the numbers, virginity pledges may have moved 4 percent of youth to adopt the only manner of truly safe premarital sex, that being none at all. So-called safe-sex education may have moved 6 percent of sexually active youth to reduce their risks with birth control. Those results are something of a statistical tie with regard to reducing teen pregnancy. Yet researchers recommend more funding and emphasis on birth control education while dismissing virginity pledges as ineffective-despite past research indicating virginity pledges at least postpone sexual activity among those ages 12 to 17.

More leathernecks

The few and the proud in the Marine Corps aren't as few as they used to be, according to U.S. military officials. Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead Jr. of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command says the Corps has grown by nearly 27,000 members in two years. That's half the time officials allotted for such growth.

After launching a program in 2007 to reach a total of 202,000 Marines by 2012, the Corps will likely hit that number early this year. (Marines already total over 200,000.) Milstead said the Marines added 500 additional recruiters and increased the budget for recruiting bonuses. The group also retained more of its force: In 2008, 35 percent of active duty Marines re-enlisted. That's up from 24 percent in 2006. Army officials also reported reaching their recruiting goals for the third year in a row, adding 80,000 soldiers last year, and expect the growth to continue.

Milstead said a teetering economy and a plunging job market may make enlistment more attractive, but he says the service remains attractive too: "Kids join the Marines because they want to join the Marines, not because they're tired of flipping burgers."

Gospel call

Eleven conservative congregations that broke away from The Episcopal Church and formed the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) in 2006 can keep their property as they realign under the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria.

A Virginia judge ruled Dec. 19 that the churches were covered by a state statute dating back to the Civil War that allows the majority of a congregation's members to leave without giving up church property. The Diocese of Virginia claims the statute is unconstitutional and has vowed to appeal, but ADV vice-chairman Jim Oakes said, "We hope that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia will realize that it is time to stop this legal battle. In these economic times, we should be focused on helping our communities and spreading the gospel, not spending millions of dollars on ongoing legal battles."

Line of fire

Good news for law enforcement agencies reeling from a spike in police officer deaths in 2007: The number of officers killed by gunfire in 2008 dropped to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) reported 41 officers died from gunfire in the line of duty last year, down from 68 in 2007. The 2008 figure represents the lowest number since 1956, when 35 police officers died from gunfire.

NLEOMF chairman Craig Floyd attributes the drop in deaths to increased use of bullet-proof vests and stun guns that allow officers to maintain a safer distance from violent criminals. More than 70 percent of officers use body armor, according to Floyd. Fewer than 50 percent used the vests just five years ago.

The report included at least one grim increase: The number of female officers killed more than doubled. Fifteen women officers died in 2008, compared with six in 2007. Floyd said more women are taking on dangerous assignments. One of those women, Nicola Cotton, was one of the first graduates of the New Orleans police academy after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and depleted the city's police force. In early 2008, rape suspect Bernell Johnson overpowered Cotton, 24, as she tried to handcuff him near a busy intersection in broad daylight. Johnson shot Cotton to death with her own gun. Police superintendent Warren Riley said of Cotton: "I can tell you this officer fought with a man twice her size, and she fought very courageously."


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