---- — Amid all the gloom and doom of late, there really are some pockets of good news, folks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the teenage birth rate has plummeted and that nearly every state is reporting lower births to unwed teens. After earlier reporting a record low of 31 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 from 2007 to 2011 (compared with 42 births per 1,000 for the previous five years), the CDC says the Mountain States of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah,saw rates fall by at least 30 percent.
Even more interesting, the CDC says the teen birth rate among Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the population, fell at least 40 percent in 22 states.
The federal government also is reporting another promising trend among young Americans: More of them are getting college degrees. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that one out of three Americans ages 25 to 29 have college degrees. That’s 33.6 percent, up from 24.7 percent in 1995 and 21.9 percent in 1975. Researchers hope this will halt a trend that put America behind many other countries in percent of adults with college educations.
While the search for new forms of energy will continue and increase, the rise in U.S. oil production has hit a record — an increase last year of more than 1 million barrels a day, or 14 percent. This has helped keep oil prices from sharply escalating, as had been feared.
On the science front, the ongoing battle against cancer is scoring more victories. Researchers have found that new ways of using the body’s immune system against cancer cells are working on such aggressive forms of cancer as late-stage melanoma. The treatment is beginning to be used on other forms of the disease, including cancers of the lungs, kidneys and colon.
And there is new evidence that antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV are also successful in preventing AIDS in groups at high risk of getting the disease.
Despite continuing worries about job creation and the overall condition of the economy, the number of houses repossessed by banks in May was 29 percent lower than a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Despite an uptick in foreclosures as banks try to sell houses as the market improves, the nation is on track to see 500,000 completed foreclosures this year compared with 670,000 last year. The average price of a foreclosed house is $182,136, up almost 8 percent in May from April.
Former President Bill Clinton is telling local and state politicians as well Americans in general that the federal government can’t do everything. On issues from infrastructure to health care to global warming, he says we have to stop thinking the federal government is the answer to all problems and to take on more of the burdens ourselves for what we need to achieve. One perfect example is Oprah Winfrey, who is donating another $12 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in addition to the $1 million she previously provided. The museum is expected to open in Washington in 2015.
While there are still some science-deniers among us who refuse to believe that the outbreak of extreme weather and changing climatic patterns around the globe do not portend climate change, fewer governments are among them. China and the United States have a lot of issues, but for the first time they have agreed to work together to find substitutes for man-made hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning, which deplete the ozone layer. About 100 countries now are on board on this initiative.
Finally, if you still aren’t cheered up a bit, head to the local cinemaplex or drive-in. This summer, Hollywood is bringing out a Lone Ranger movie -- with the always-entertaining Johnny Depp as Tonto -- and another Superman flick. Can truth, justice and the American Way really be in that much danger?
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.