What’s News?

What’s News?

There are only two ways to create a family: by birth and by choice. Each family is a small, intimate part of a vast global network of families that is as old as recorded history. This news-blog is compiled to provide perspective on social currents that affect all families, particularly those in transition. All posts are accurately sourced, and edited for length and clarity. Comments and criticisms are welcome: wallerstein@socialaw.com


The Tampon Tax 

July 12, 2019
Karen Zraick, NY Times

Why are tampons taxed when Viagra isn’t? That’s the question at the heart of efforts to repeal the so-called ‘tampon tax’, a sales tax now levied on menstrual products in 35 states. Twenty-two states considered eliminating the tampon tax this year. Opponents argue that menstrual products should be treated as medical supplies, and that a tampon tax amounts to sex-based discrimination.

The Swelling Wealth Gap in America

June 24, 2019
Patricia Cohen, NY Times

A recent analysis of a Federal Reserve report found that over the last three decades, the wealthiest one percent of Americans saw their net worth grow by $21 trillion, while the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion. Imposing a wealth tax on the country’s thin sliver of multimillionaires and billionaires is attracting support from a handful of those who would pay it. A letter being published online on Monday calls for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

Alisa Roth, NY Times, A review of Rachel Louise Snyder’s book “NO VISIBLE BRUISES, What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us”

June 7, 2019

Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States yet its rarely discussed. Fifty women a month are shot and killed by their partners. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness. And 80 percent of hostage situations involve an abusive partner. Nor is it only a question of physical harm: In some 20 percent of abusive relationships a perpetrator has total control of his victim’s life. (Countries including Britain and France have laws to protect against this kind of abuse, but the United States does not.) This shouldn’t surprise us. For most of our history, domestic violence has been considered a private matter. The first law to protect victims of domestic abuse passed Congress only in 1984. And it would take a dozen more years before the first national hotline for victims was established. (One outcome of the #MeToo movement may be a greater willingness to report domestic violence: In 2018, calls to the national domestic violence hotline reportedly went up 30 percent.) As recently as the 1990s, there were three times as many shelters for abused pets as there were for abused partners.

As World Makes Gains Against Child Marriage, Nepal Struggles to Catch Up

June 6, 2019
Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, NY Times

In many parts of the world, the battle against child marriage is being won, with global rates dropping significantly over the last decade, largely because of progress in South Asia. But the story is complicated in Nepal, one of the region’s poorest countries, where activists say these marriages are increasing in some villages. According to new data released Friday by Unicef, about 765 million people alive today were married as children. Nepal has some of the world’s highest rates of such marriages, Unicef found, even though the practice has technically been illegal in the country since 1963.

Sperm Bank Errors

June 4, 2019
Jacqueline Mroz, NY Times

While there are no annual statistics on the number of US children born through artificial insemination, many experts have estimated the number may be as high as 60,000… and no one tracks the number of people who find that the sperm they purchased is not from the donor they chose. With DNA tests widely available, increasing numbers of parents, (or sometimes their donor-conceived children), are discovering that the wrong sperm was provided by a sperm bank, or fertility clinic, often decades after the fact. According to Dov Fox, director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego “Sperm banks are very lightly regulated… and switches or mix-ups are far more common than we know.”

New York Mulls Ending Ban on Paid Surrogacy Contracts

May 29, 2019
The Associated Press, NY Times

New York’s Legislature could soon repeal one of the nation’s last bans on paid surrogacy contracts, in which a woman is compensated for carrying the child of another person or couple. New York and Michigan are now the only two states that expressly forbid surrogacy contracts, forcing many prospective parents to go to other states to start a family.

People See More Diversity and Gender Equality

April 22, 2019
Sintia Radu, International Affairs, U.S. News & World Report

According to a survey of 30,133 people in 27 countries conducted in the spring of 2018 by the Pew Research Center, people around the world generally say their country is more diverse and has greater gender equality today compared to the past, but also say overall family ties are getting weaker. “Medians of around seven-in-ten say their countries have become more diverse and that gender equality has increased over the past 20 years.” Fifty-eight percent of people surveyed say family ties have weakened in the past 20 years. Countries where that belief is strongest include South Korea (83%), Tunisia (74%), Poland (67%) and the U.S. (64%). Men are more likely than women to say gender equality has increased, and countries that showed the greatest differences between men and women’s views on gender equality include Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Canada.