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Susan Estrich - The measles are back

No, it's not a rock group. You're lucky if you can't remember. It's a disease that was gone, and now it's back. So, by the way, is whooping cough, another dreaded childhood disease that had been effectively wiped out.

Every child is supposed to be immunized before they start kindergarten. Children with medical issues, such as a weakened immune system, are entitled to medical exemptions. These children, along with family members who cannot be vaccinated, depend on the rest of the community to protect them. According to accepted public health standards, "herd immunity" requires that 92 percent of the students in the classroom be vaccinated. By vaccinating our own children, we protect them — and those children who cannot be vaccinated and might face the worst outcomes if they were to fall sick.

While all states require certain vaccinations, parents who claim that vaccinations are against their "personal beliefs" are entitled to exemptions. The number of parents seeking such exemptions has doubled in the past seven years, and, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, the rates — and dangers — are actually greatest in private schools and many of the wealthiest public school districts.

In the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District, for example, the exemption rate is nearly 15 percent. In the Montecito district in Santa Barbara, more than 27 percent of the parents are claiming it is against their personal beliefs to vaccinate. Among private schools in California, nearly 25 percent of the kindergartens are reporting vaccination rates that put them below the 92 percent rate. In some cases, literally half of the students aren't getting vaccinated. Ten percent of the public school kindergartens surveyed reported that "herd immunity" no longer protects their students.

Parents who don't vaccinate their otherwise healthy children claim that they are protecting their children's health. I have yet to find a reputable doctor or public health expert who agrees. Measles and pertussis are potentially serious illnesses, even for healthy children. And they can be deadly for children and family members who cannot be vaccinated, already have compromised immune systems or are being treated for cancers — in short, for people who depend on the community to keep them safe.
Not vaccinating your child is both dangerous and selfish.

This is not a religious issue, at least not for the overwhelming majority of California residents who opt out of vaccination. The most dangerous schools in the state are schools populated by parents who think they know better than public health officials and, in making that mistake, are exposing not only their own children, but also their most vulnerable classmates and family members, as well as teachers and staff, to potentially deadly threats.

A few years ago, it was very "fashionable" to believe that vaccinations caused autism. I say "fashionable" because there was never one ounce of scientific proof establishing any such connection, and yet you could turn on your television and see the topic being debated as if it were one about which reasonable authorities could disagree. Reasonable authorities could not disagree. The so-called studies suggesting a link to autism were thoroughly and totally discredited. And yet the trend continues.

The number of measles cases in America reached a 20-year high last year. A preventable disease is back. California is facing a whooping cough epidemic this year.

Of course, parents should be able to raise their children as they please. I'm not one who thinks we need the state to tell us what our kids can eat for lunch or what size sodas they can buy. But vaccinations are another matter. Personal choice should not extend to exposing children to unacceptable and unnecessary risks — particularly when those being exposed are the most vulnerable among us, who have no choice.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - Casinos just aren't the answer

The video for the Bruce Springsteen song "Atlantic City" opens with a scene of the grand Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel imploding into a pile of dust. That was almost 40 years ago. The Traymore Hotel and other grand hotels were leveled in much the same spectacular fashion.

In their place rose glass boxes and concrete hulks to house new casinos. The Atlantic City dream was to fill New Jersey state coffers with gambling gold.

At the time, Nevada held a monopoly on casinos. The plan was to turn Atlantic City into a Las Vegas East drawing rollers — high and low — preferably from other tax jurisdictions. But that dream went bad all around.

At least four Atlantic City casinos are closing this year, in part because of intense competition from newer gaming establishments in nearby Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Another problem for casinos nationally is the tough economy for their core market — blue-collar and middle-income workers.

Casino revenues in New Jersey are down 44 percent from their 2006 high, but the business is rough everywhere. The huge Harrah's in Tunica, Mississippi, has also shut its doors.

The casino business is now in the advanced "cannibalizing" stage as competitors eat what's left of each other's lunch. By "competitors," we mean both the casinos and the states relying on their revenues.

Atlantic City's special tragedy is what was traded for the casino fantasy. Nowadays cities run entire visitor campaigns around the sort of fabulous old architecture Atlantic City so easily discarded. Imagine what today's entrepreneurs could have done with a mythical beach resort smack in between New York and Washington!

Casino lust persists, but the argument has changed. Casinos are rarely portrayed as a font of tax revenues from out-of-state pockets. In most of the country, casino customers are increasingly locals who would have spent their spare dollars at local restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues.

The new sales pitch for casinos rings more of desperation: If the state's working class is going to be milked by gaming conglomerates and the states that tax them, better that the milking take place at home than in a neighboring state.

Some states have valiantly managed to hold the line. Nebraska, for example, does not allow full-fledged casinos even though Iowa has placed three in Council Bluffs, right across the Missouri River from Omaha. (Iowa's gambling tax revenues are also falling.)
Massachusetts seems to be succumbing and is now involved in an odd negotiation with Mohegan Sun, an Indian casino operator applying to build an outlet near Boston. Mohegan Sun already has a big-league casino in eastern Connecticut, not far from the state border. Massachusetts wants a promise that it will not entice the state's high-stakes gamblers to its flagship in Connecticut (where casino taxes are lower). Mohegan Sun has yet to agree.

The statesmen running New Jersey now figure: If casinos aren't making it in South Jersey, perhaps the solution is casinos in North Jersey. How about putting them "somewhere in the swamps of Jersey" — a Springsteen reference to the Meadowlands?

The Meadowlands sit a mere 9 miles west of Manhattan, a casino-free zone. New York state, however, seems to have its own plans. It is now considering several industrial-strength casinos just north of New York City (and, for that matter, the New Jersey state line).

Jersey's casino boosters seem undeterred. A North Jersey state senator — mindful of South Jersey's fear of new competition — recently ventured that a couple of big casinos in his part of the state "could produce in excess of $1 billion over 10 years to be reinvested in Atlantic City."

Sure. If you say so.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 08:34

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Pat Buchanan - Bluster & bluff in the Baltic

"I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty alliance. ... Article 5 is crystal clear: An attack on one is an attack on all. So if ... you ever ask again, 'who'll come to help,' you'll know the answer — the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America."

That was Barack Obama in Tallinn, Estonia, last week, reissuing a U.S. war guarantee to the tiniest of the Baltic republics — which his Cold War predecessors would have regarded as certifiable madness.

From 1945 to 1989, no president would have dreamed of issuing a blank check for war in Eastern Europe. Our red line was in the heart of Germany. It said to Moscow: Cross the Elbe, and we fight. That red line was made credible by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops permanently stationed in West Germany.

Yet Truman did not use force to break the Berlin Blockade. Ike did not use force to save the Hungarian rebels. JFK fulminated, and observed, when the Wall went up. When Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact armies into Czechoslovakia, LBJ did nothing.

Why did these presidents not act? None believed there was any vital U.S. interest in Eastern Europe worth a war with Russia. And, truth be told, there was no vital interest there then, and there is no vital interest there now. If we would not risk war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Hungary or Czechoslovakia half a century ago, why would we risk it now over Estonia? Cold War presidents routinely issued captive nations resolutions, declaring our belief in the right of the peoples behind the Iron Curtain to be free. But no president regarded their liberation worthy of war.

What has changed? When did the independence of the Baltic republics, miraculous and welcome as it is, become so critical to us that if Russia intrudes into Estonia, we will treat it as an attack on our homeland?

In 1994, George Kennan called the expansion of NATO into the old Soviet bloc "a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions." Yet we not only brought into NATO all the Warsaw Pact nations, George W. Bush brought in the Baltic republics.

To see the folly of what we have done, consider Ukraine, which has been involved in a military and political collision with Russia ever since we colluded in the overthrow of its pro-Russian regime. As neocons cheered the ouster of the corrupt and incompetent, but democratically elected, Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin moved to secure and annex Crimea, and pro-Russian separatists sought to break away from Kiev and achieve independence or reunification with Russia.

A question arises: Why do not the pro-Russian separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk have the same right to secede from Ukraine, as Ukraine had to secede from the Soviet Union? And why is this quarrel any of America's business? Was it the business of Czar Alexander II when the 11 Southern states seceded from the Union and, then, West Virginia seceded from Virginia?

Under the new government of Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine sent its forces to the southeast to crush the separatists. They failed. Rising casualties and a separatist drive on the city of Mariupol have apparently persuaded Kiev to seek a ceasefire and peace.
Needless to say, those who celebrated the overthrow of the pro-Russian regime in Kiev are now apoplectic at Kiev's apparent defeat. Yet, on Sept. 5, the New York Times wrote, "The Americans have no illusion that Ukraine could ever prevail in a war with Russia."

That is realism. But if Ukraine's cause is militarily hopeless, what would be Estonia's chances in a clash with Moscow? Estonia has three percent of Ukraine's population and is less than one-tenth its size. If Moscow decided to take Estonia, it could do so in 48 hours.

And should Putin engage in so rash an act, what would NATO do? Would 28 NATO nations declare war and send troops? Would the United States declare war on Russia and conduct air strikes on Russian forces inside and outside Estonia? Would we send aircraft carriers into the Baltic Sea? Would we start a war with Russia that could lead to early use of tactical atomic weapons, devastating Estonia and causing massive deaths?

How would NATO save Estonia without destroying Estonia?

To eliminate second thoughts about our war guarantee to Estonia, some in Washington are calling for permanent U.S. bases and the stationing of U.S. troops in the Baltic states, so that any Russian incursion would lead to U.S. causalities and a definite clash with Russia.

Presumably this threat would deter Russia in perpetuity. But if it doesn't deter Putin, or if a future Russian ruler regards it as a bluff and chastises Estonia, what do we do then? Put the B-2s on alert and go to DEFCON-2, as we did in the Cuban missile crisis?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:30

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Sanborn — It's fall and many buyers are just getting started

There were 1,283 residential homes on the market as of 9/1/14 in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The average asking price was $587,950 with a median price point of $269,900. Last September 1, there were 1249 homes on the market with an average asking price of $498,590 and the median was $259,800. The current inventory level represents a 15.5 month supply of homes on the market.

Well, Labor Day has come and gone. It really feels different now. Downtown Meredith has gotten back to normal. You can actually drive down Route 3 or Route 25 into town without cursing the stop and go traffic (at least until the foliage season.) You could kind of hear the door slam behind the summer folks. The sudden decrease in cars mucking up the byways seems to create a vacuum and it always makes me feel like it's the end of the sales season... but it's not. There may be fewer people around this the time of year, but this is when many serious buyers are just getting started.

The following chart shows that in Belknap County over the past three years, the third quarter has the most closings. There is no doubt that some of these properties went pending in the beginning of the summer, which is what you would expect. However, the fourth quarter of the year has the second highest number of sales. September and October are always pretty strong sales months and then things slow down in the middle of November and through the holidays as people focus on more important and festive activities.

Sellers always ask when the best time is to sell their home. The answer is anytime as long as the property is priced right. Your home has to be on the market in order to sell it. There were 419 homes sold over the past three years in the first quarter of the year, many of which went pending during the holiday season. Who knows for sure, but some of these homes might not have been seen or sold at all if they weren't available when that particular buyer was looking.

So just because the throngs of flatlanders are gone right now, they could be sitting down there in flatland thinking that they'll come back up when it's quiet, sneak up on you, and buy your house. At least that what's we are hoping...

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 9/2/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 07:41

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Pat Buchanan - Has Hillary ever been right on foreign policy?

Sen. Rand Paul raises an interesting question:

When has Hillary Clinton ever been right on foreign policy?

The valkyrie of the Democratic Party says she urged President Obama to do more to aid Syrian rebels years ago. And last summer, she supported air strikes on Bashar Assad's regime.

Had we followed her advice and crippled Assad's army, ISIS might be in Damascus today, butchering Christians and Alawites and aiding the Islamic State in Iraq in overrunning Baghdad. But if the folly of attacking Assad's army and weakening its resistance to ISIS terrorists is apparent to everyone this summer, why were Clinton, Obama and Secretary of State Kerry oblivious to this reality just a year ago?

Consider the rest of Hillary's record. Her most crucial decision as Senator came in 2002 when she voted to invade Iraq. She now concedes it was the greatest mistake of her Senate career.

She voted against the surge in 2006, but confided to Defense Secretary Bob Gates that she did so to maintain her political viability for 2008.

This is statesmanship? Not voting your convictions about what is best for your country at war, so as not to antagonize the liberals in the Iowa caucuses?

In 2009, Hillary presented a "reset button" to Vladimir Putin's foreign minister. In 2011, she supported U.S. air strikes to bring down Col. Gadhafi and celebrated in Tripoli when he was overthrown and lynched. How did that work out? Libya is today a hellhole of murder and mayhem and Islamists are threatening a takeover. Who did Hillary think would rise when Gadhafi fell?

Hillary's failure to anticipate or prevent the Benghazi massacre and her role in the botched cover-up, all concede, are burdens she will carry into the primaries in 2016, should she run.

Where, then, has Hillary exhibited the acumen to suggest she would be a wise and savvy steward of U.S. foreign policy in a disintegrating world?

Is this a convincing argument for the Republican alternative? Hardly. The principal GOP voices on foreign policy, who get more airtime than Wolf Blitzer, are John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Their track record: McCain wanted to confront Putin over South Ossetia. He and Graham wanted to arm Ukrainians to fight the Russians in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk. They wanted Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia brought into NATO, so that if war were to break out, we would be fighting the Russians alongside them.

This year, Graham was trolling around a Senate resolution to give Obama a blank check to attack Iran. Last year, McCain and Graham were for attacking Assad's army. This year they are for bombing ISIS, which is attacking Assad's army.

But if Hillary, McCain and Graham have been repeatedly wrong about Syria, what do we now? Answer: Stop and think.

First, this war in Syria and Iraq, like all such wars, is eventually going to be won by soldiers, by boots on the ground, by troops who can take and hold territory. And in such wars, as Napoleon said, God is on the side of the big battalions.

America should declare to friends and allies in the Middle East, as Nixon did to our friends and allies in Asia in the Guam Doctrine of 1969, that while we will stand with them when they are attacked, they, not we, will provide the soldiers for their own defense.

No nation is less threatened by ISIS than ours. And as the Syrians, Turks, Kurds and Iraqis have the proximity and manpower to defeat ISIS, they should do this job themselves.

Turkey shares a 550-mile border with Syria and could march in and crush ISIS. But if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wishes to play games with ISIS, out of hatred of Assad, let him and the Turks live with the consequences.

As for Syria's army and regime, which either defeats ISIS or dies, let us cease impeding their efforts by backing a Free Syrian Army that has rarely won a battle and is only bleeding the Syrian army.

Kurdistan and its ethnic cousins in Syria, Turkey and Iran are capable of defending themselves, and we should encourage any nation, including Iran, that is willing to send them the weapons to fight ISIS.

As for Baghdad, if it wants its Sunni lands back, it either should fight for them or accept their loss. We Americans are living today with the consequences, in considerable losses of blood and treasure, of fighting other people's wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Yet, we are suffering not at all from having kept out of other people's wars — in Georgia, Crimea, Donetsk, Syria and Iran.

Speaking of the debate over U.S. air strikes in Syria, the New York Times writes, "There are too many unanswered questions to make that decision now, and there has been far too little public discussion for Mr. Obama to expect Americans to rally behind what could be another costly military commitment."

Sometimes the Times gets it right.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 04:22

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