Teen moms take the next step in programs to prevent second pregnancies


Lillian Harris laughs when she’s asked whether she planned to get pregnant at 16.

“Definitely not,” she says. “I was in denial for a long time. I never went out to get a test. I didn’t want to accept that I was pregnant.”

But she was. And once the Chicago teen gave birth to her son Jubril, now 4, things only got more difficult. Harris struggled to finish high school while balancing a turbulent home life and the responsibility of raising a child. At one point, she and Jubril even lived in a women’s shelter.

Now 20, Harris is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois-Chicago and works part time as a pharmacist’s assistant. But perhaps most important, she has delayed a second pregnancy.

And that’s saying something. A quarter of teen-age mothers have a second child within two years of their first, researchers say. That second child is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Those so-called subsequent pregnancies are a blight on what could be an encouraging trend in teen pregnancy statistics. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2000, the teen birth rate hit an all-time low of 48.7 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 — a decline of 22 percent since 1991.

But having a second child can affect a teen mother’s future in myriad ways. So while avoiding a teen-age pregnancy is important, delaying subsequent pregnancies could be even more crucial in helping achieve better outcomes for both teen mothers and their children.

“Many kids can make it with one child, especially with the support of extended family,” explains Pat W. Mosena, a former demographer at the University of Chicago. “The second child is often a wipeout. At that point it’s long-term welfare. If [the second pregnancy] doesn’t change life options, it certainly puts those options on hold.”

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit that provides civil legal assistance to low-income families, teen mothers who have subsequent pregnancies are one-third less likely to finish high school or get a GED and three times more likely to wind up on welfare. They’re also more likely to abuse or neglect their children and have them removed to foster care.

Spurred by her research, in 1990 Mosena founded the Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Project, a state-funded program that works with teen moms over the course of two years to help delay a second pregnancy.

ISPP, which is run through nine health and social service agencies in Chicago and around the state, accepts 300 first-time mothers ranging from 14 to 18 years old and “provides intensive home visiting services coupled with substantive training and support through group participation,” Mosena said. This training includes education about birth control, school counseling and career-planning advice.

The program seems to be working. Between 1996 and 2000, only 2 percent to 4 percent of the teen moms participating in ISPP each year had a second pregnancy; 88 percent to 90 percent said they had no unprotected sex in the last month; and between 75 percent to 80 percent remained in or graduated from high school.

Yvette Mitchell, also of Chicago, is a graduate of ISPP and has since gone on to earn a master’s degree in social work. She was 18 when she gave birth to her son Hiram in 1992.

Mitchell, who was raised in a single-parent household, credits ISPP and training associate Anita Murphy with helping her achieve her dreams.

“She really explained to us that your roof is your child’s floor. Where you stop is where your child begins,” Mitchell said. “I knew that if I had anything then my child would have it. I didn’t want to get bound in by another child and be unable to give both children everything they needed, as far as nurturing and caring.”

Murphy said that many of the teen moms she works with “are missing options in many areas — family, school, work, positive role models — and all of these are inextricably tied to adolescent pregnancy. These factors, or the lack thereof, are not only affected by, but also precipitate pregnancy.”

While there’s no federal legislation that specifically targets teen subsequent pregnancy, programs similar to ISPP have achieved success elsewhere. The Nurse Home Visitation Program in place in Elmira, N.Y., and Memphis, Tenn., works with young mothers up to 24 months after the birth of their first child.

Harris, the young mother now at UIC, started out in ISPP but has now moved on to a slightly different program called Next Step for Teen Moms, a three-year-old Chicago venture that seeks to not only delay a second pregnancy but prepare teen moms for college.

The two-year program offers training sessions on contraception and career planning, but also helps the 20 to 25 girls in the program prepare for the SAT and the ACT, fill out college applications, and find scholarship and grant money.

What is most unique about the program, says coordinator Diane Deaderick, is that each girl is paired with a mentor from the Junior League of Chicago, a women’s community service volunteer organization that has committed $750,000 over five years to the project.

Nancy Snyder, president of the JLC — one of 296 junior leagues worldwide — said the focus on college readiness grew out of the stark disparity in lifetime earnings for college graduates and non-college graduates. According to a Census Bureau report released last July, the average lifetime earnings for a full-time, year-round worker with a high school education are about $1.2 million, compared with $2.1 million for a college graduate.

Harris’ mentor, Pat Arnold, helped her find an apartment to move into last May, and also helped in the job search that landed her at Osco Drug Co.

“She’s always trying to look out for me,” Harris said.

Arnold said she’s always enjoyed working with teen-agers, and Harris has been no exception. The mentors are meant to be older women who can serve as positive role models and help the teen moms in the programs find solutions to their problems.

“I couldn’t have found a better partner,” Arnold, 53, said. “One of the things I do love about Lillian is that I remember picking her up one day and she said, ‘I had a terrible weekend!’ She was constantly pouring out all the information I needed to help her.”

While it’s too early to judge Next Step for Teen Moms’ relative success, Harris said her relationship with Arnold will not end once she finishes the program next June.

“This is now a lifelong relationship,” she said. “We’re more than just a mentor and a partner. I consider her a friend.”

© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services.

What’s new, what’s cool: Please touch

For KRTKids

The bad thing about museums is that they have all these cool things — priceless artifacts, beautiful art, stuffed animals — but you can’t really do anything with them. The signs always say, “Do not touch.”

Not so at the Smithsonian for Kids Web site (http://www.si.edu/kids/). The Smithsonian is a collection of many different types of museums in Washington, D.C.

There are tons of neat things to do at this site. You can learn how to identify all those bugs in your back yard, how to read a satellite image, what you can make from a buffalo, test your knowledge of pandas or U.S. postal history, and watch how the bare skeleton of a triceratops moves as it walks.

Those are only a few of the many fun things to do at the Smithsonian for Kids site, which always says, “Click here,” and never says, “Do not touch.”

© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

Student activists discuss universities’ limits on free speech

For KRT Campus

WASHINGTON — Conservative campus activists complained Friday that since Sept. 11 university administrators have stifled displays of patriotism and support for the war on terrorism.

In a panel organized by the conservative group Accuracy in Academia, three student activists told stories of how they felt their speech rights were hampered on campus.

“Patriotism at the University of Michigan was suppressed by political correctness,” said U-M student Allison Tarr. “After 9/11, we were hit by a barrage of anti-war demonstrations, which only reinforced the repugnant anti-American image of Ann Arbor.”

Tarr said that the Diag, the main area on the U-M campus where students demonstrate with university permission, saw many displays and expressions of understanding for Muslims and the Islamic world, but little expression of sorrow for the men and women killed on Sept. 11.

“Instead of encouraging women to don Muslim headdresses, why not encourage people to wear flags?” Tarr asked.

Arizona State University student Oubai Shahbandar said things were worse on his campus. On Sept. 26, a large American flag was hung in one of the residence halls, but it was taken down by the administration, Shahbandar said.

The administration claimed that the flag would be offensive to the many international and Muslim students who resided in the hall.

Shahbandar, who was born in Damascus, Syria, and moved to the United States with his family at age 7, objected to the university’s action. He proposed a resolution in the student senate to put the flag back up, but it was defeated. He continued to make noise, causing ASU to lose $1 million in alumni contributions.

“Finally, the university acquiesced and put the flag back up,” Shahbandar said. “We won a small victory in the culture war.”

But the battle over campus speech is not new, said Thor L. Halvorssen, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a legal group that works to protect the individual rights of students and professors in universities.

“The assault on freedom of speech on campuses has been going on for 15 years,” Halvorssen said. Restrictions take the form of speech codes and zones of free speech on campus. “It’s only after Sept. 11 that people are starting to notice it more.”

Halvorssen said that both pro-war and anti-war students and professors sought FIRE’s legal help.

“We had a number of people who came to us with their cases who expressed a desire to take immediate military action or hoist the American flag and express their patriotic spirit,” Halvorssen said. “There were many more cases of that type than speech calling for restrained action or who said the U.S. was to blame in some way.”

Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, disagreed.

“Controversial positions taken on international affairs have not suffered greatly since Sept. 11,” Kurland said. “What has been much more of a problem is the great slew of steps taken in terms of federal legislation.” Kurland referred to the Patriot Act and other counterterrorism measures that he felt would hamper intellectual freedom.

Kurland did say that “there is an atmosphere of intense bitterness” on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, with Jewish-American and Arab-American students taking the other side’s views very personally.

“There’s a degree of incivility or worse that is very bothersome and has appeared in a number of college campuses in that regard,” Kurland said.

Whether conservative or liberal, “Nowhere do you have a right not to be offended,” Halvorssen said. “People offend each other all the time — it’s called debate.”

The student panel, “Campus Anti-Americanism in the Wake of 9/11,” was part of a four-day conference called Conservative University, which featured an array of speakers and events for the dozens of college students who paid to attend. The conference also was organized by Accuracy in Academia.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

‘Ozzy Unauthorized’ digs not-so-deeply into Osbourne’s bizarre life

For KRTeens

“Whatever else I do,” heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne once said, “my epitaph will be: Ozzy Osbourne, born Dec. 3, 1948. Died, whenever. And he bit the head off a bat.”

Six million viewers — many of them teen-agers — tuned in to make “The Osbournes” the highest-rated show in MTV history. But their knowledge of Osbourne’s life and career probably doesn’t extend much beyond his imagined epitaph.

Looking to fill in the gap and capitalize on the show’s popularity, author Sue Crawford has written “Ozzy Unauthorized” (Michael O’Mara Books, $14.95), a bite-sized look at Osbourne’s amazing story.

The breezily written biography dwells on Osbourne’s personal travails and pays scant attention to his music. Crawford converts VH1’s “Behind the Music” formula perfectly into print.

While “Unauthorized” — written, as the title implies, without the cooperation of the Osbournes — does not do justice to Osbourne’s lasting influence on heavy metal, especially his work with Black Sabbath, the book does dish out the juicy details of his debauchery-laden past.

Early on, Osbourne was fascinated with death and with killing living things.

“I always had a big thing about the darker side of life, the morbid gray side of things,” Osbourne says in the book.

The catalog of morbid acts seems endless: He once tried to strangle a brother and set fire to a sister; he once took seven different drugs in one day; he shot a bunch of chickens in his back yard and later shot 17 family cats; he bit the head off a dove in a meeting with record company executives; and during a bender he attempted to strangle his beloved second wife, Sharon.

That last bit of bad behavior earned him three months in a rehabilitation facility and nearly ended his marriage. Sharon eventually forgave Ozzy for the incident, just as she has forgiven most of his sins.

In fact, in her acknowledgments, Crawford sends “a heartfelt thank you to Sharon Osbourne for keeping Ozzy alive for the last seven chapters; without her this would have been a very slim volume.”

Since Sharon bought out Osbourne’s contract from her father, Don Arden, his life has changed entirely. He no longer uses illegal drugs and rarely drinks. Where once he went through gobs of money, now Sharon manages his career with great success, landing them a spot on British Rich List in 2001 with a joint fortune of $58 million.

Add to that the reported $19.5 million the Osbournes will be paid by MTV for a second season of their reality sitcom antics, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

The big question that Crawford fails to answer in her book — and which is probably unanswerable by even Osbourne himself — is how much of his life is an act put on to amuse, entertain or frighten others, and how much is a real expression of his inner torment.

“When I’m cornered,” Osbourne says in the book, “when I’m surrounded by a lot of other people, I feel like I have to be an eccentric for them to like me.”

The secret of the TV show’s success is that because Osbourne’s bad-boy image is so deeply engrained in the public mind, eccentricity for him now means puttering around his house in track pants trying to discipline his own teen-age children, Jack and Kelly.

“Ozzy Unauthorized” only highlights what a radical departure Osbourne’s current home life is from his first 40 years on the planet.

In that sense, it is perfect summer reading. It won’t mess up a day at the beach by probing its subject too deeply.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

For athletes, summer weather and heavy pads can be a deadly combination

For KRTeens

If your most strenuous physical activity this summer has been the occasional long walk to the refreshment stand at the local multiplex, then you need to be especially careful when getting in gear for the fall sports season.

For the 1.5 million teen-agers who suit up to play high school and junior high school football every August, it may seem like the worst thing that could happen is to not make the team or, worse yet, get whipped with a wet towel in the locker room after practice.

But the hot, humid late summer weather combined with players’ heavy padding can add up to a formula for tragedy.

Take the case of Craig Lobrano, 17, an all-state football player at Varina High School in Varina, Va. Thirty minutes into an early September practice last year he collapsed from heatstroke. The temperature was only 77 degrees, but the humidity was 85 percent. Lobrano died two days later.

Lobrano is one of 20 young football players who have died of heat-related causes since 1995. Three players died of heatstroke last year, and 100 have died of heatstroke since 1960, according to study released last February by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

Too often, athletes eager to impress coaches and teammates dismiss the warning signs their bodies are give them.

Joshua Krenz, now 21, played high school football for four years in Fall Creek, Wis. He says he saw few of his teammates take themselves out of a practice or a game because of dehydration or heat exhaustion.

“I think there was this attitude that guys wanted to show they were tough, either to impress their teammates or to impress the coach,” Krenz said.

What makes these heat-related deaths especially tragic is that they could be avoided, says Frederick O. Mueller, co-author of the football deaths study and chair of the American Football Coaches Committee on Football Injuries.

“There is no excuse for any number of heatstroke deaths since they are all preventable with the proper precautions,” Mueller said. “Every effort should be made to continuously educate coaches concerning the proper procedures and precautions when practicing or playing in the heat.”

Football players are at an even greater risk of heatstroke than other athletes because they wear so much padding, explained Dr. Robert Gotlin, director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He added, however, that athletes in all sports — including other fall sports such as cross country — are at risk when training in hot, humid weather.

Krenz said the Fall Creek High School football team’s practices began in early August, when temperatures would hit highs in the low 90s or upper 80s. Practices were held in the mornings or at night to make it easier on players, Krenz said, but it was still hard.

“We took breaks every half hour or 40 minutes for water and to rest,” he said.

“Thirst is the first sign of dehydration,” Gotlin said. “By that time, you’re already a little bit dehydrated.” Gotlin, who coaches younger football players as a hobby, said players should receive breaks every 15 to 20 minutes for a quick breather and cold water or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade.

Mueller advised that 15- to 30-minute rest periods be provided for each hour of practice.

Krenz, now a senior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, also said many players arrived in practice out of shape and unprepared for the level of activity football practices require.

“The biggest problem, I think, was that guys spent all summer going to the beach or not doing anything,” Krenz said. “Then they’d come to football practice and try to go at it for a couple of hours like they were in perfect shape. You just can’t do that.”

This is why Mueller recommends that coaches “acclimatize athletes to heat gradually by providing graduated practice sessions for the first seven to 10 days and other abnormally hot or humid days.”

All players should have a complete physical exam before the season begins, Mueller said. Krenz said that players at his school were required to have a physical every two years, and he knew of at least one player who did not return because he failed the physical.

According to Mueller’s report, signs of heat illness and dehydration include nausea, incoherence, fatigue, weakness, vomiting, cramps, a flushed appearance, blurred vision, unsteadiness and profuse sweating.

Aside from heatstroke, another danger to football players enduring practices in August heat is the risk of heart problems. Gotlin said that problems like cardiac arrhythmia — an irregular heartbeat — often go undiagnosed and can be exacerbated or become fatal when players exert themselves in extreme temperatures.

There were six heart-related football deaths in 2001, according to Mueller’s report.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

Web site of the week: Blogger.com

For KRTeens

While you might tease them for being geeky, in your heart you secretly envy the kids with their own Web sites. You want your own, but the only C++ you know is the grade you got in geometry.

While programs like Dreamweaver have made creating Web pages easier than ever, a new — and more importantly, free — program has come along to give you the power to publish instantly on the Web from anywhere in the world.

It’s called Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/) and it’s used to publish what are called blogs — diary-like sites consisting of short posts, photos, poems or whatever else you want. With Blogger, you don’t even need to pay for an Internet hosting service. You can get a free “blogspot” to post your musings.

Once you’ve set up your blog, all you need to do to update it is go to the Blogger Web site, sign in and start typing. When you’re done, click “Post & Publish” and your latest thought is on the Web.

Blogger also allows you to do a group blog. You and a group of friends can post for fun, or you can use it as part of a group school project.

Be the envy of all your geek friends — become a blogger.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information

Demand for Old Glory not flagging

WASHINGTON — Americans’ demand for flags flown over the U.S. Capitol reached a fevered pitch immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks and continues today, even though the United States has settled in for a long fight against terrorism.

Since the 1950s, the office of the Architect of the Capitol has flown flags over the dome at the request of Congress members. Members make the request on behalf of constituents.

The month of September best illustrates the increased demand for flags flown over the Capitol. For September 2000, the number was 7,000. That figure doubled — to 14,000 — for September 2001.

But even that 100 percent increase doesn’t accurately reflect the increased demand for flags flown over the Capitol, said Bruce Milhans, communications officer in the architect’s office.

"At the end of the [fiscal year, in September] we were hampered because there was such a demand that the supply of flags available to us was exhausted," Milhans said.

For example, after flying the 14,000 flags in September, the office flew only 6,433 flags in October and 4,843 in November, even though the U.S. military was engaged in fierce warfare in Afghanistan.

Traditionally, the demand for flags has gone up during wartime. The single-year record for flags flown over the Capitol is 154,224 in 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf War. The architect’s office typically flies 130,000 flags a year.

The House Administration Committee, known by some as the mayor’s office of Capitol Hill, is charged with ordering the flags flown over the Capitol. But committee staff members had no idea how Americans would respond to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Orders that usually took four weeks to fill were backlogged for months.

"We all were overwhelmed," said Jim Forbes, spokesman for the committee. "We were definitely humbled and overwhelmed by the patriotism of all Americans. We just tried to keep up with supply, and eventually we did."

The committee sent staff members to the Internet looking for manufacturers who could help fulfill the demand for Old Glory. But it was difficult, Forbes said, because the manufacturers must be U.S.-owned and the flags must be made in accordance with official standards of the U.S. government.

"You really can’t just take anyone," Forbes said. "There are many different ways to make flags. We have strict standards that must be met."

Specifically, flags flown over the Capitol must be sewn, not silk-screened.

As the supply of flags has been replenished, the number of flags flown has risen steadily, even though the war has dropped off the front pages.

In May, the most recent month for which the architect’s office has data, 13,045 flags were flown over the Capitol. It’s unclear, though, how many of those flag orders are new and how many are backlogged orders finally being filled.

"We’re still working on a backlog of flags because we did not fully resume until spring," Milhans said. "Inclement winter weather held things up. Now we have tens of dozens of flags here right now waiting to be flown."

Flag orders through the office of Chicago-area Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., have been steady since Sept. 11, according to press secretary Nadeam Elshami.

"We’ve been getting about four or five requests every month, month after month," Elshami said. Before Sept. 11, requests for an entire year were in the single digits.

Every morning, laborers from the Capitol superintendents’ office scale the roof on the south side of the Capitol, near the south edge of the dome on the House side. Three 12-foot tall flagpoles stand there, awaiting another day of activity.

Depending on demand, workers may start as early as 7 a.m., raising flags over the Capitol. Each flag is flown for two minutes, and then lowered. Work ends at 5:30 p.m. or when the allotment of flags for the day is finished, Milhans said, though under extraordinary circumstances work may continue until dusk.

"This is a labor-intensive process, and we’re not going to put our laborers at risk," Milhans said. "If weather conditions are such that it’s hazardous, we don’t allow them to work." That is another reason, Milhans said, why the number of flags flown may have increased in the spring as the weather has improved.

Once the flag is flown, the House flag office prepares certificates authenticating the date when the flag was flown over the Capitol and inscribing any special message requested, Milhans said.

The single-day record for most flags flown was July 4, 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. Twelve temporary flagpoles were erected on the Capitol and 10,471 flags were flown that day.

Flag prices range from $17.49 to $31.91, depending on the size and the kind of material the flag is made of, cotton or nylon.

Families of Sept. 11 victims may obtain, at no cost, a flag flown over the Capitol and delivered in a special box with a certificate signed by their House representative and by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

Web site of the week: Inside the teen-age brain

For KRTeens

It’s been said that there’s nothing wrong with today’s teen-ager that 20 years won’t cure. New evidence from the field of neurology — the science of the brain — is showing that adage is truer than we may have thought.

While 95 percent of the brain is structured by the time a child is 5 or 6, Dr. Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., has found that a crucial part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex starts growing again right before puberty.

Giedd’s work was explored in a PBS “Frontline” special, “Inside the Teen-age Brain,” and a companion Web site (http://www. pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/) offers some fascinating insight into how teen-agers’ changing brains affect their lives.

Along with interviews with Giedd and other brain experts, you’ll find lots of interactive goodies, including a virtual map of the teen brain that highlights the parts that experience dramatic change just before puberty.

You’ll also find out why many teens have trouble getting to sleep at night and why teens’ emotional reactions often differ from those of adults.

Teens are often a mystery to their parents, sometimes they’re a mystery to themselves as well. Check out the clues to solving that mystery at this cool Web site.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

This summer, keep busy by keeping score

For KRTKids

There are lots of neat things to do at a baseball game besides eat hot dogs and peanuts. And keeping score is one of them.

Next time you go to a game, pick up a program — the scorecard is included. Each program comes with instructions on how to keep score, but here are some basics.

The scorecard includes spaces for each player on both teams. Their positions on the field are numbered one through nine, like this: pitcher: 1; catcher: 2; first baseman: 3; second baseman: 4; third baseman: 5; shortstop: 6; left fielder: 7; center fielder: 8; and right fielder: 9.

Across the top of the scorecard you’ll see a number for each inning, first through ninth. The box in the top left corner is for the first batter in the first inning. Fill in the next box for the next hitter, and so on until the inning ends. Then move to the next column for the second inning, and so on.

So to mark an out, you keep track of which position on the field the ball was hit to. For example, a ground ball to the shortstop (6), in which he throws out a runner at first (3), would be marked 6-3. A fly out to center field would be marked by the number 8 with a circle around it.

Here are some common abbreviations to make scoring easier: 1B — single; 2B — double; 3B — triple; HR — home run; K — strikeout swinging; backward K-called out on strikes; BB-base on balls; HBP — hit by pitched ball.

If a player reaches base, you show how he did it by using one of the abbreviations above and tracking the runner’s progress around the bases. Some scorecards already having a diamond drawn for you. Other times, you’ll need to draw it yourself.

Once you’re done scoring the game, you’ll see that you can tell what happened on any play just by looking at your scorecard.

Even if you don’t get every detail right, keeping score is cool and you’ll enjoy the game much more than you did before. Plus, you can relive the game over and over when you get home!

To learn more about scoring baseball, visit The Baseball Scorecard Web site (http://www.baseballscorecard.com/).
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information

Here’s what’s depressing

Competition; namely, competition with me. One of the beauties of writing for a monopoly paper like the Chronicle is that if you’re coverage an event or issue is mediocre, at least there’s nothing better for readers to compare it to. Sure, they might think, “This stinks,” but you really can’t appreciate how truly blase a story is until you compare it with another, better written story about the same subject.

The same goes for writers. Which is why, when I wrote a story about a truck bringing steel from the World Trade Center through town, I was very depressed to read a much, much better story about the same event in the Washington Post the next day. I won’t go into all the ways in which Ylan Q. Mui’s story sends my story whimpering away with its tail between its legs, especially since I don’t have a link to my story to provide you with. But I assure you, it does. [Update: here’s my story.]

In tennis, it’s said, that you only get better if you play against someone who’s better than you are. I don’t know about that. I always got discouraged and stopped chasing after the ball. By the way, I see Mui at the event — we both interviewed one of the organizers after the ceremony described in the story, and I strongly doubt she’s out of her mid-20s. Which makes me feel a little bit like the 32-year-old guy hitting .250 in the minor leagues, still hoping for a chance at the big time. Sometimes you’ve got to know when to pack it in.

Fortunately, I don’t need to be good enough to write for the Post. I only need to be good enough to write for the Sun. And I’m learning. Yes, I’m learning. I just can’t stop learning something new every day, damn these brain cells of mine.

Vouchers decision only beginning of political debate, sides say

WASHINGTON — Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on school vouchers is only the beginning of a broader legal and political debate, according to both opponents and advocates of vouchers.

"This case was not about whether there should be vouchers, but whether there could be vouchers," said Judith French, the former Ohio attorney general who successfully argued before the Supreme Court that Cleveland’s school choice program for low-income students passed constitutional muster.

French participated in one of two panel discussions Friday hosted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"I believe this decision allows us to experiment with vouchers," French said. "But that’s what it is — an experiment, not a mandate."

In the case, Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris, justices voted 5-4 that Cleveland’s program does not violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause by allowing parents to choose to send their children to private religious schools.

Of the 4,400 low-income Cleveland students receiving vouchers of up to $2,250, 96 percent attend religious schools.

Though the Supreme Court’s decision may settle federal law, state courts could still come down harder on voucher programs, said Elliot Mincberg, co-counsel for voucher opponents in Cleveland and general counsel to People for the American Way, which also opposes vouchers.

"By no means is this the end of the legal road," he said. "The fight with regard to school vouchers has only just begun."

Some states are more restrictive than others on the use of using public funds for religious purposes, said Mark Chopko, general counsel for the pro-vouchers U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said 17 states are restrictive, 16 are permissive and 17 are uncertain.

"So you have about a third going in each direction," Chopko said. "This decision does not impact states directly. The ruling sets a constitutional floor, not a ceiling."

The political debate will likely center on whether vouchers take funds from public schools and how to hold private schools accountable to the public. Public schools receive $347 billion at all levels of government.

"This decision is more about the future of the public schools than about the future of the establishment clause," said Marc Egan, director of the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association, which opposes school choice.

"With vouchers, there’s no accountability to the public," Egan said. "Vouchers just hand over tax money, no questions asked."

Voucher proponents argue parental choice is what keeps private schools on their toes.

"There is no single test that will determine if a school is successful, just as there’s no single model for a successful education," said William F. Davis, deputy secretary for schools at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "To say we’re not accountable is ridiculous. We’re accountable to parents every day."

One pro-voucher activist echoed the point.

"The measure of success is not only determined by test scores," said Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice Inc. "We also want to know that kids are safe, that they’ll graduate and that people in the schools care about them."

Walden-Ford, who is black, sent one of her children to a private school after he repeatedly got into trouble in public school. He graduated from high school with honors and is now in the U.S. Marines. Walden-Ford said she wants other parents, especially low-income blacks in Washington, to have that choice.

"We can’t sit around and wait and sacrifice our kids," she said. "How long can we wait?"

Mincberg rejected that logic.

"Anyone who thinks that vouchers really serve parents is just buying into right-wing propaganda," he said. "Vouchers don’t deal with the real issues the public schools face, like inadequate funding."

The National School Boards Association’s Egan said, "Most public schools in this country are doing just fine. Some are in trouble, but most are just fine."

The political implications of school vouchers are also an open question, according to E.J. Dionne, co-chair of the Pew Forum and a columnist at the Washington Post.

"It will be interesting to see how wide and deep the support for vouchers is in the black community," Dionne said. "If the Republicans can pick up even 10 percent [more] black voters on the voucher issue, that’s a huge plus for them."

Ninety percent of blacks voted for Democrat Al Gore in 2000, with only 9 percent voting for President Bush.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

World Trade Center steel aimed for Sept. 11 memorial starts cross-country trip

WASHINGTON — Sixteen tons of steel taken from the ruins of the World Trade Center towers sat idly on the back of a flatbed truck Tuesday, held in place by industrial strength cording.

On Sept. 11, the once straight, solid beams eventually gave way to the stress from the collapsing towers. The only menace the twisted metal beams now posed was as a painful reminder of what happened that day.

The steel is traveling across the country as part of a tour to promote "Freedom’s Flame," a proposed memorial to the 71 law enforcement workers who died in the collapse of the twin towers in New York.

The World Trade Center steel was on display across the street from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Park during a brief midday ceremony in which organizers placed a wreath next to the inscribed names of the officers who died that day.

The organizers, from Southern California, hope to build a memorial in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., that incorporates the steel and later construct a duplicate memorial to be donated to New York City. They estimate construction of the two memorials will take three years and cost $9 million.

"We could have just taken this metal and shipped it on a train back to California, but that’s not the point," said Chuck Williams, director of the project. "The purpose of Freedom’s Flame is to remind people to never, never, never, never forget. We have too much forgetting in this country."

People nationwide saw the terrorist attacks unfold on their television screens, Williams said, "but when they actually see that twisted steel, they understand the power of what the terrorists did on American soil to the people in those buildings."

The design proposed by architect William Lecky, who was involved in the creation of the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans memorials, has 30 7-foot figures ascending and descending a staircase that wraps around a giant stainless steel flame.

Survivors would be shown rushing down the stairs and leaving the scene, while police officers and firefighters rush up the stairs to help others.

The flame and the base would form a sundial charting each tragic event of Sept. 11, from the time the first plane hit to the time the second tower fell. The time of each event would be carved into the base of the memorial.

The stainless steel used to build the memorial would be cast in gray to mimic the ash and smoke that covered Ground Zero. The steel beams currently touring the county would be used in the memorial’s inner structure.

The memorials would also include a fragment of limestone from the Pentagon and "something from Shanksville," Lecky said, referring to Shanksville, Pa., the crash site of the fourth hijacked plane.

Tuesday was the second day of the 11-day cross-country tour that will wind up in Southern California on Independence Day. A charter bus trailing the flatbed truck carried a message in 5-foot-tall white letters on its sides.

The sign read, "Let’s Roll," words said by Todd Beamer of Cranbury, N.J., who with other passengers challenged the hijackers of the airplane that went down near Shanksville. The nation has embraced those words as an expression of determination.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services

News alert: Tiger’s winning streak comes to an end

WASHINGTON — Tiger Woods may have held off Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia at Bethpage Black, but he’s no match for Britney Spears.

Woods finished second to the 20-year-old dance-pop sensation in Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the 100 most powerful celebrities. Twenty-four other athletes made the list, but Michael Jordan is Woods’ only company in the top 10, coming in at No. 9.

Woods also was ranked second last year, finishing behind actor Tom Cruise. Jordan dropped three spots from his No. 6 ranking in 2001.

The rankings are based on earnings, Web hits, press mentions, major magazine cover stories, and TV and radio appearances over the last 12 months. Predictably, money is the biggest factor in the financial magazine’s rankings, but it’s not decisive.

"The power ranking underscores more than just the amount of money a celebrity earns, but the extent to which they capture the public imagination," said Forbes Senior Editor Brett Pulley.

Even though Woods earned $70 million compared to Spears’ paltry $39.2 million, Spears won out by drawing 617,000 more Web hits and gracing seven more magazine covers.

While Woods was edged out in the last round, Pulley sees him topping the list for years to come.

"The amazing thing about Tiger Woods is that he got $62 million this year, but only nine or 10 million of that money came from golf," Pulley said. "At this rate, he’s on track to earn a billion dollars by the time he’s 35."

In addition to a mega-deal with Nike, Woods also locked up endorsement deals with Disney and the Upper Deck trading card company.

"I can’t imagine him going anywhere for a while," Pulley said.

The same may not be said for His Airness, who barely snuck into the top 10 after heading the list in 1999. While Forbes ranks Woods fourth in money earnings, Jordan is listed 28th and he probably would have finished even lower in the overall rankings if not for all the attention garnered by his return to the NBA with the Washington Wizards, Pulley said.

The next highest athlete on the list is Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, who netted $67 million from a two-year deal with Ferrari. Schumacher was at the center of controversy recently when Ferrari ordered another of its drivers to let Schumacher win a race.

Three-time NBA champs Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant come in at Nos. 30 and 31, while Mike Tyson fell from 11th last year to 35th this year. He earned $23 million but most of it went to pay off debts, according to press reports.

Lennox Lewis is ranked three spots behind Tyson in the Forbes power rankings, but he showed his power when he knocked out Tyson on June 8.

Baseball stars Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr. also made the list, and four other NBA players are included — Kevin Garnett, Grant Hill, Scottie Pippen and Alonzo Mourning.

Four of the five tennis players on the list are women, which says something about the lack of star power on the men’s tour right now. Venus Williams and Martina Hingis ranked 60 and 64, respectively.

Cover girl Anna Kournikova finished at No. 67 on the Forbes list — three spots ahead of Jennifer Capriati and five in front of Serena Williams — despite being ranked only 55th in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association.

Kournikova has never won a singles title, but makes up for her mediocre play with plenty of endorsements. Capriati has won three Grand Slam tournaments and Serena Williams has won two, but Kournikova had more than twice as many Web hits as the two combined.

Andre Agassi was the only male tennis player on the list at No. 53. Particularly glaring is the absence of any NFL stars on the list. St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner has won two MVPs in three years but is nowhere to be seen in the Forbes power rankings.

Another quarterback, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts was ranked No. 60 last year, thanks to an $8.4 million signing bonus.

"Peyton Manning is the NFL’s top endorser," Pulley said, "but in general football players are more anonymous when they’re on the playing field. It probably does take a little bit more" for football players to get good endorsement deals.

Other sports figures on the list are: No. 56 Jeff Gordon, NASCAR driver; No. 65 Arnold Palmer, golfer; and No. 74 Jacques Villeneuve, Formula One driver.

The Forbes Celebrity 100 issue hits the newsstands Monday. The magazine bases its earnings estimates on confidential sources with knowledge of celebrity finances.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services