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News Briefs 2

Births to Teenagers Down, Rates for Unwed Women Level

The Washington Post

The federal government reported Thursday that births to teenage girls have declined, and childbearing rates among unmarried women have leveled after rising steadily for 50 years, interrupting social trends that have redefined the American family and contributed to the recent clamor for a tougher welfare system.

"Any sign those patterns are reversing is very encouraging," said Stephanie Ventura, a demographer at the National Center for Health Statistics, a research arm of the CDC.

At the same time, Ventura and others emphasized that teenage childbearing and out-of-wedlock births remain at historically high levels and that it is too early to say whether long-term increases are reversing.

"Although these findings are encouraging, we clearly still need to do more to reduce teen pregnancy," Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala said in a statement.

The statistics come as Congress and the administration are trying to overhaul the nation's welfare system, a process fueled for many politicians by the belief that welfare has contributed to the increase both in childbearing among teenagers and unmarried births generally.

That argument, and the question of whether out-of-wedlock births can be reduced by changing social policy, has been contentious throughout the welfare debate.

Government-Wide Shutdown Irks, Frightens Civil Servants

The Washington Post

The possibility of a government-wide shutdown, with a skeleton-crew manning essential services, both irks and frightens civil servants caught in the Congress vs. White House budget battle. Now, there is the possibility of class warfare in the bureaucracy - between essential and non-essential workers - because it appears the skeleton crew could turn out to be rather fleshy.

Until now, the furlough question, from the federal workers' viewpoint, has been mostly economic. How to make ends meet if the paycheck stops? Now, the potential for ego damage is added to the stew because it seems the stay-at-home crew will be in the minority.

If the president and Congress fail to agree on a federal budget by Oct. 1, or fail to pass a stop-gap funding bill, all "non-essential" employees would be placed on unpaid furlough, while workers "essential" to health, safety and national defense would keep working.

After studying agency data, the Office of Management and Budget has concluded there are more essential federal workers than non-essential.