- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

Let the chads fall where they may

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is to be applauded for ignoring the political passions of the moment

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is to be applauded for ignoring the political passions of the moment and adhering to the rule of law, specifically Florida state election law in all its specific and unambiguous language, even while being called a "Soviet commissar" by Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.

We keep hearing about the "will of the people." What about the will of the people who voted for the legislators who, in free and open debate, fashioned a state law that clearly says all votes must be in and certified one week after an election, except in cases of fraud, mechanical failure or acts of God, none of which is the case here?

The legislators, elected by the will of the people, stipulated in Florida's election law that all votes must be in and certified by 5 p.m. seven days after the election. They did this because seven days is ample time to count and certify the results and because the longer you give people to tally the results, the more opportunity you're giving them to corrupt the process.

There are reports that a Florida state representative was found to have a punch-card voting device in his car. Observers in the Palm Beach County recount state that Democratic canvassers are handling the cards in such a way as to leave the counting-room floor littered with chads.

There are reasons machine counting was adopted. People, and especially opinionated people, easily make subjective judgments about "hanging," "swinging-door," "pregnant" and even "dimpled" chads that are about as accurate in determining intent as calling a psychic hot line.

The New York Times reports that an elderly voter in Palm Beach County, ignoring the clearly marked arrow pointing to a single hole, said he saw a hole next to Vice President Al Gore's name and another hole near Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's name, so he punched them both.

We can't ignore the law because a few voters were confused easily. Florida election law should be obeyed, and let the chads fall where they may.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

Gore arguments try to have it both ways

The Gore campaign relies on clever legal arguments in the courtroom, but it has failed to recognize and follow a simple kindergarten rule: You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Vice President Al Gore's team, including campaign chairman William Daley, repeatedly has reminded the public that while the highly Democratic Florida counties got in their requests for manual recounts before the deadline, supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush did not file requests in time to obtain hand recounts in other counties. Mr. Daley asserted that he felt fine about this situation everybody had a chance, and the law is the law. How can these same Democrats claim that the deadline for the manual recount is arbitrary and irresponsible? Mr. Gore wants Florida statutory law enforced when it helps him but not when it would harm him.

Mr. Gore is contributing to his own undoing. The Gore campaign keeps emphasizing that he won the popular vote. Of course, his previous statements about the Electoral College show that Mr. Gore's position has shifted conveniently. When confronted in October with the possibility that Mr. Bush could win the popular vote while Mr. Gore could win the Electoral College, he asserted that "we are fortunate as a people to have a Constitution that resolves all doubt as to what would happen in that situation. If it did happen, I think the Constitution would be respected as it always is."

In light of this comment, the Gore campaign's suggestion that Mr. Gore's popular-vote victory reveals the will of the people is specious.

SCOTT P. MCBRIDE

Chicago

'Children at greater risk from infectious diseases than from vaccines'

I take issue with several points made by Robert Cihak and Michael Glueck regarding vaccines and state government mandates in their Nov. 14 Commentary column, "Some shots may be bad for your children."

Hepatitis B is a silent killer. It is a common viral infection that causes liver failure and liver cancer, and its symptoms often go unnoticed for years.

Infancy is the ideal time to begin immunizing against hepatitis B because infection acquired early in life is most likely to cause chronic liver disease. More than 90 percent of young children who become infected will have no symptoms. An infected child could be playing on a playground or attending school, and you would never know he was a carrier capable of transmitting the infection to another child.

Before vaccines were widely used, more than 300,000 infections occurred each year and about 5,000 people died. Most people who die from hepatitis B in their 30s and 40s were infected as children. Hepatitis B can be transmitted to children in several ways, including exposure to infected people living with young children (even people who show no signs of the illness).

Though there are high-risk groups, many of the cases do not fit into identifiable risk groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent to 30 percent of hepatitis B cases in recent years, or about 45,000 to 90,000 newly infected persons annually, have had no identified risk factors.

Parents would be gambling with their children's health by not getting them immunized. The decision not to immunize also increases the possibility of outbreaks in schools, child care centers and other public settings. For this reason, states require children to be immunized for school entry, although exemptions are offered.

Mr. Cihak and Mr. Glueck failed to note that infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. Their vulnerability is why they are protected through immunization long before they reach school.

Parents should discuss the benefits and risks of vaccines with their physicians but recognize that children are at much greater risk from infectious diseases than from vaccines.

DR. STEVE BERMAN

President

American Academy of Pediatrics

Washington

U.S. priorities in the right place

A recent Commentary column by Oliver North included a serious error and demonstrated extraordinary lack of knowledge about the state of U.S. military participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions ("Setting priorities," Nov. 12).

At the moment, there are no U.S. troops among the 28,932 soldiers from 44 countries serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions. Furthermore, no U.S. soldiers have served in U.N. peacekeeping missions for several years.

NATO has, on its own initiative, decided to deploy soldiers in certain regions where it has concerns, including Bosnia and Kosovo. It does not request U.N. approval in areas where it is deployed, and they are not, as Mr. North so erroneously stated, at the beck and call of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In addition, 834 U.S. police officers have volunteered individually to serve in U.N. peacekeeping missions. These officers have, on their own initiative, decided to assist in U.N. missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. Their presence is greatly valued, but they are there as individual volunteers.

Some U.S. citizens choose to work, often at great risk, as U.N. workers for the U.N. humanitarian agencies serving in conflict areas around the globe. Finally, 38 U.S. military officers have been assigned by the United States as observers in U.N. missions in Western Sahara, Kuwait, Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor and the Middle East.

The United States, with its vote in the U.N. Security Council, approves all U.N. peacekeeping missions. In recent weeks, the lack of participation by the United States and some other nations that maintain well-equipped militaries has been addressed inferentially as a matter of concern by several U.N. member states. They have noted that nations with well-equipped militaries are not participating in U.N. peacekeeping and are leaving the active participation to poorer nations.

CATHERINE O'NEILL

Director

U.N. Information Centre

Washington

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