By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
(CNN) - Periodically we are reminded of the horrible national disgrace of child sexual abuse.
A few years ago, it was the systemic abuse of children by some priests in the Catholic Church.
The sins of the church and these priests were covered up for years as the offending pastors were simply transferred from one parish to another when their deviant behavior was discovered.
Little or no thought was given to the children who were scarred for life by these violations at the hands of people they were taught to trust and respect.
Now the eyes of the country are focused on a place called Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. For a lot of kids, not so much.
It's the home of Penn State University, the late legendary coach Joe Paterno and another far-reaching child sex abuse scandal. This time allegedly at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The testimony of what happened to his alleged victims is stomach-turning.
Again a large, trusted institution became a breeding ground for this most horrendous behavior, and it was allowed to continue even though a lot of people who should have known better did.
There is also a child sex abuse scandal being uncovered at a prestigious private school in New York, Horace Mann.
The New York Times detailed horror stories about three former teachers - all dead now - who allegedly abused male students decades ago. The report also questions whether the former head of the school knowingly allowed this behavior to continue.
Since the piece came out, additional students - male and female - have come forward with allegations of abuse, some naming teachers not mentioned in the original report.
But it's not just Horace Mann, Penn State or the Catholic Church. This stuff goes on all the time at every level of society.
And because children can't vote, don't have any money and can be easily ignored, not enough is done to prevent it.
Here’s my question to you: Why haven't we done a better job protecting our kids from pedophiles?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
CNN – A majority of Americans worry about their children achieving the American dream.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that nearly 6 in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the opportunity for the next generation to live better than their parents.
It's a sad commentary on the state of our country: parents have always dreamed of a brighter future for their children than what they had.
Perhaps not anymore.
The reality is many of us may wind up working longer, and retiring later, than anticipated.
The CEO of the international insurance giant A.I.G. tells Bloomberg News that the retirement age could eventually reach 80 in light of Europe's debt crisis.
As we live longer, raising the retirement age is one way to make pensions and health care more affordable.
As Europe sinks deeper into financial crisis under the weight of massive government debt, a piece in The Daily Beast describes young European adults as the "screwed generation."
In countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, the Baby Boomers have held onto generous jobs and benefits leaving little opportunity for their children. In Spain and Greece nearly half of adults under the age of 25 don't work.
There's an increasing sense of hopelessness as young Europeans simply give up on raising families.
And the U.S. could be next.
Young Americans are being crushed by college debt. And even with college degrees, many of them can't find jobs. Consider this: a majority of unemployed Americans older than 25 attended college.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when 6 in 10 people worry about their children achieving the American dream?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
(PHOTO CREDIT: THINKSTOCK)
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
A restaurant in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, is banning children younger than 6 from its dining room.
The owner of McDain's says he decided to change his restaurant's policy after older customers complained about noise and unruly behavior by children dining with parents who do little to control their kids. The policy goes into effect Saturday. If the place was closer, I would make a reservation today.
McDain's is a small restaurant - it seats about 40 people, and it sits on a quiet golf course. Not exactly Chuck E. Cheese. But nonetheless the decision to ban the little noisemakers has caused an uproar in town.
This isn't the first time a restaurant has gotten fed up with tiny diners who can't sit quietly through a meal.
Last year, a restaurant called The Olde Salty in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, ruffled some feathers after a sign saying "Screaming Children Will Not Be Tolerated!" was posted in its window. And it was magic. While some locals were up in arms about it, that restaurant owner has reported a boom in business. She says diners who are looking for a peaceful meal now seek out her restaurant.
Of course badly behaved kids are not just a problem in restaurants.
Malaysia Airlines recently announced that it's banning infants from first class because of complaints received from passengers about crying babies on long flights. Other airlines catering mainly to business travelers have also been pressured to consider child-free sections of their flights and even child-free planes. We'll see what happens. Airlines need paying customers to fill seats, and kids, poorly behaved or otherwise, are part of that equation.
Here’s my question to you: A restaurant in Pennsylvania has banned children under the age of six. Is that fair?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Forget the romance languages. If you really want your child to be ready for the future, you might want him to crack open some Chinese language textbooks.
As President Obama meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House this week, there are more reasons than ever to believe China holds the key to all of our futures.
For starters, China owns us – or soon will, as they continue to snap up U.S. treasury bonds. China is now the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, just under $900 billion.
The Chinese also have a significant financial stake in many other countries around the world. It was reported this week that China has lent more money to developing countries in the past two years than the World Bank.
Then there's their military expansion – Chinese military spending is up 12% in the last decade.
A Chinese-developed stealth fighter jet recently took its first flight. They've also created a long-range missile that could hit U.S. ships in the pacific. And, they're building their first aircraft carrier to launch missions far off China's coast.
There's more: Beijing has become an integral player in nearly every major international issue, from the standoffs with North Korea and Iran to global warming.
In fact, one top NASA scientist says that China is the world's "best hope" in the fight against global warming. He says that our democracy – including lobbying dollars from the fossil fuel industry – makes it impossible for the U.S. to confront global warming.
Here’s my question to you: If you were the parent of a small child, would you make him/her learn Chinese?
More in the Cafferty File today on the pleasures of modern air travel:
After you're groped, X-rayed and looked at like a common criminal, you finally make it onto your flight only to find you're seated in front of, next to or behind someone traveling with one or more small children.
For the duration of your flight, you can look forward to screaming, crying, kicking, food-throwing and yelling parents.
The New York Times says for some, sitting near such an uncontrollable child is "the second biggest fear of flying." They report on a growing push for airlines to create child-free flights or to designate "family-only" sections on planes.
A recent travel survey shows 59 percent of passengers support creating these special sections, while close to 20 percent say they'd like to see flights with no children.
Some travelers say they'd gladly pay extra to fly with no children on board. Even some parents support the idea of separating kids from the rest of the passengers.
They say a family-only section would give parents and children more freedom to make a little noise. They also point out it's stressful for parents when their kids are screaming and won't calm down.
But it's unlikely any of this will happen. A major airline trade group says the industry is working hard to return to profitability; and they don't want to start turning people away from certain flights.
As for family-only sections, they say it would be too complicated. Plus it could set a dangerous precedent once you start separating passengers by age. What if there are calls for elderly-free flights or obese-only sections?
Here’s my question to you: Would you pay extra for a flight with no children?
The number of American women without children is at an all-time high.
A recent report by the Pew Research center shows one in five women between the ages of 40 and 44 were childless in 2008 - that's an 80 percent increase from the 1970s.
This is a phenomenon that's being seen across all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels. White women are the most likely not to have children; but childless rates are growing more quickly for blacks, Hispanics and Asians over the last decade.
Researchers say part of the reason behind all this is people are waiting longer to get married and have kids.
Experts tell AOL Health that people are freer and enjoying their lives more - doing things like traveling, shopping and eating out. All of which are much easier to do without a baby in the picture.
They also say many women are delaying getting pregnant because they can't find someone they want to have a child with - they're either very picky or very educated.
Also in the last 30 years, contraception has gotten better and there are improved job opportunities for women. Research shows there's less pressure from society now to be a mom, and the decision to have a child is seen as an individual choice.
And don't forget about money. Especially in tough economic times like these and with high unemployment, many people may feel they're not in the financial position to have children.
Here’s my question to you: Why is the number of childless women at an all-time high?
So much for the American dream….
A new poll shows that a majority of Americans are pessimistic about their children's future. More than half of those polled in the Bloomberg survey say they are "not confident" or only "somewhat confident" that their children will have a better life than they do.
This is a shocking statistic. For a very long time in this country - each generation has had the expectation that the next generation will have a better, easier, and more successful life than their own.
But the Great Recession may have brought all of this to a screeching halt.
One 65-year-old retiree from Massachusetts says of his three grown children, "I don't think they've got a chance," adding that he's "very angry at what's going on in this country."
Pluralities of people say they're not hopeful they'll have enough money in retirement, and expect they'll have to keep working to make up the difference. A whopping 85 percent say they've taken some steps to cut costs - from using coupons, to cutting a regular expenses like cable TV, telephone or internet service, to putting off a major purchase.
The outlook is bleak. A new survey of top economists has cut its growth forecasts for both this year and next.
They expect GDP to grow at a pace of 2.6 percent this year and next... that's down from the group's previous prediction of 3.2 percent.
They've also lowered their outlook for consumer spending - which makes up two-thirds of the economy - and expect this year's holiday sales to be "especially weak."
Here’s my question to you: How do you think your children's lives will compare to your own?
A sobering picture of what's ahead for this nation's children... more than 20 percent of them - one in five - are living below the poverty line.
A new study shows the economic well-being of families has plummeted to levels not seen since the 1970s... thanks to the recession, job losses and declines in income.
Here are some of the very disturbing findings in the report funded by a private philanthropy group:
As for education - which may be one of the few tickets out of poverty - there's no good news on that front either.
This report suggests the amount of time spent in school may even go down... with some states moving to shorter school weeks to save money.
Experts say that chaotic childhoods have a significant effect on health later in life - people who grow up under lots of stress have higher rates of cancer, liver disease, respiratory disease and other ailments.
How are kids expected to get a fair start with all this weighing against them?
There's one small reason to be hopeful, though. The study's authors say children's quality of life overall should start edging up... but that depends on the economy.
Here’s my question to you: What does the future hold if more than 1 in 5 American children are living below the poverty line?
The government might soon be in charge of tracking how fat or skinny American children are.
Under the Healthy Choices Act - states would receive federal grants to track the body mass index of children ages two through 18 years old. The bill would require doctors in these states to collect this information and then pass it on to the state government... which would in turn pass it along to the feds.
The bill says that federal officials would use this data to identify obesity trends in different parts of the country... and how those trends change depending on gender and socioeconomic status.
Also, if a child's body mass index is greater than the 95th percentile, the bill requires the state to give the parents information on how to lower it... and on local child obesity programs.
One of the bill's sponsors - Democratic Congressman Ron Kind from Wisconsin - tells Cybercast news service that no one would be forced to come into their doctor to get their body mass index tested.
It would be taken when the child is at the doctor for a regular visit. The bill's sponsors also point out that any data collected will not include the patients' names.
This is all part of the larger measure that funds several programs and introduces new regulations meant to reduce obesity. Many would argue this is long-past due... with One-third of all U.S. children and two-thirds of all adults either obese or overweight.
Being fat also means being more likely to have everything from diabetes to heart disease to some kinds of cancer. And the costs of treating those things affect us all.
Here’s my question to you: Should the government start keeping track of how fat our children are?
The pope is finally admitting that the Catholic Church itself is to blame for the worldwide child sex abuse scandal. It took long enough.
Pope Benedict XVI calls the crisis "truly terrifying" and suggests "the greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church."
Benedict also stresses that quote "forgiveness is not a substitute for justice."
It's refreshing to finally hear the pope talk about this growing crisis head-on. For weeks, as accusations piled up, we've heard other Catholic officials blame anyone but the pedophile priests and officials who covered it all up.
They blamed the media, they blamed homosexuality, and they described the whole affair as "petty gossip."
But thanks in part perhaps to the relentless reporting of the scope of the scandal worldwide by the media, the pope is now talking; and he will likely be controlling the message from here on out.
Hopefully this is a sign that the pope, who's been criticized for not taking enough actions against allegations of abuse, understands how deeply this crisis has affected the Catholic Church. But so far it's just all talk.
Victims groups want more than talk… and rightfully so.
Here’s my question to you: Why has it taken the Catholic Church so long to acknowledge its role in the sexual abuse of children by priests?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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