The Providence (R.I.) Journal, Feb. 6, 2015
When it comes to their children's health, most parents are highly concerned about making the best choices. But a new and deplorable anti-vaccine movement has helped fan an outbreak of measles, potentially far more dangerous to children than time-tested vaccines. Parents who eschew vaccination for the sake of their own are endangering others.
In December, the highly contagious illness popped up at Disneyland, in California. It has now spread to 14 states, with 84 cases confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreaks in other regions of the world, including Europe, are widespread, and in recent years have caused many of the cases brought to the United States. (Last year, according to The Washington Post, most cases brought in from outside were from the Philippines.) Last year was this country's worst for measles in a decade, with 644 cases. And yet 15 years ago, thanks to vaccination, the disease had effectively been eliminated.
For common childhood diseases, the CDC sets vaccination-rate goals at 90 percent. That is believed to be enough to keep such ailments as measles, chicken pox and whooping cough from spreading. But the percentages of unvaccinated children have crept up, undermining public safety.
Some parents reject vaccination on religious grounds. Others, placing their faith in a wholesome natural environment and organic foods, fear that vaccines may actually harm their children's health. In the late 1990s, a report linking childhood vaccines with autism helped spawn this fear. The report has long since been debunked, but suspicion lingers.
Some in the anti-vaccine camp point out that though measles is a serious disease, children do manage to weather it. Yet measles can be lethal. It is particularly dangerous to infants too young to be vaccinated. Before vaccination became common in this country, in the 1960s, measles caused 400 to 500 deaths per year.
A backlash is now forming. Some parents are refusing to take their children to doctors who treat unvaccinated patients. Pediatric practices are considering refusing those patients. In some California school districts, unvaccinated students have been forbidden to attend class.
President Obama has urged Americans to get their children vaccinated, as he says he has done. Other leaders should join him. Time has proved a range of standard childhood vaccines safe. Those who cling to a "natural" upbringing for their children may mean well, but their beliefs can literally sicken others.
The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.), Feb. 6, 2015
The world learned Feb. 3 that Harper Lee, author of the classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," will have a second novel published this July. After years of resisting pleas for another book, the 88-year-old Lee recently agreed to the publication of "Go Set a Watchman," a kind of companion to her earlier, famous story of racial injustice, which was published in 1960 and has sold more than 40 million copies around the world, in some 40 languages.
It may not be quite right to call this second novel a landmark in the history of American letters. After all, only a handful of folks have read it, and it's best to reserve judgment in such matters. Still, the publisher, Harper, plans to print two million copies, in the expectation that anything Lee writes will find a wide audience.
This much we're sure of: Lee is making the right decision, and should ignore those voices urging her against publication, out of fear that she might somehow tarnish her reputation.
The fact is that Harper Lee, like a handful of others, wrote the Great American Novel, and whether "Go Set a Watchman" duplicates that success or falls short, nothing can subtract from the power and eloquence of "To Kill a Mockingbird." And surveying the great sea of mediocre books that consume paper and ink each year, we're willing to bet that Lee's second book will rise above most. We can't wait to read it.
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