- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

August 12

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on Carnival Cruiselines:

The prime minister of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps the world, recently announced a pending $70 million foreign investment that would bring 900 jobs, and the reactions were … well, mixed.

Laurent Lamothe was delighted to promote the idea of Carnival Cruiselines injecting life into the economy of Haiti’s Tortuga Island.

But if reports in the Haiti Internet Newsletter are any indication, there is some local unease about the cruise industry’s presence.

Specifically, there are concerns about the details of this deal, not knowing whether it will allow dredging and pollution of the environment, and wondering if the island will benefit in the long run.

“I’m not having a party over this. I know the cruise industry too well to trust that this is going to benefit Haiti in any significant way. I can guarantee you Carnival is getting more out of this than Haiti ever will,” one critic said.

Sound familiar?

In Haiti, as in Charleston, the cruise industry involves prime real estate, albeit very different. And in both cases, the number of cruise passengers could significantly affect the area’s culture.

The difference is that Charleston is a thriving city where one would expect to find people discerning about what industries should come here to do business.

Residents of Haiti, where more than half the population lives on less than $1 a day, might be expected to latch onto any hope. And Carnival’s plan to build a cruise port on an island best known as a launching point for smugglers would logically offer at least a glimmer of it.

A local government representative on Tortuga is reported to have said, “A tourist port will bring work to La Tortue. But they need to come and talk to the community, get the community involved.”

Residents might want to ask him about critics’ concerns. While trade groups say the cruise ship industry injects about $2 billion a year into the economies of the Caribbean, critics complain it actually produces little local revenue because the cruise companies and international chain shops on piers siphon away most of the spending.

Carnival needs to take extra steps to make sure it really makes a difference in Haiti, which could use the business, and the dollars.




August 7

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on slim chances of catching Ebola:

Is America poised for an Ebola outbreak that will kill hundreds of people? Health experts say no.

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had topped 900 as of mid-week, and health care workers who were treating infected patients have become infected themselves, with at least one dying from the disease. It’s the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen.

That, of course, is frightening. We are accustomed of thinking of plagues that spread explosively in ever-widening circles as the number of people exposed rises and they infect still more victims.

But while the Ebola outbreak is serious, it is spreading relatively slowly even at the center of the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. That, we are told, is largely because of the nature of the Ebola virus and how it is transmitted from one person to another.

Ebola, according to the experts, is spread only through the exchange of bodily fluids - direct contact with infected blood, vomit, saliva or other fluids - or by being pricked by objects such as needles that have been in contact with those fluids. Ebola is not spread by air, food, water or by touching objects that have been touched by an infected person, such as keyboards, money or clothing.

In other words, this is a difficult disease to catch. Sadly, it is spreading in Africa in part because of lack of understanding about how Ebola is transmitted and because of cultural norms.

For example, it is traditional in Liberia to perform a ritual cleansing of the dead. That can bring friends and family members of the deceased into contact with infected bodily fluids. And many African hospitals don’t have rudimentary protective gear, such as gloves and masks, and are not equipped to fully isolate infected patients.

Contrast that to the extraordinary level of isolation afforded an American doctor and aid worker who were brought back to the U.S. after being infected by patients with Ebola in Liberia. The infectious diseases’ unit at Emory University in Atlanta is equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to deadly viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which, unlike Ebola, can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Inside the unit, patients are sealed off from anyone who doesn’t wear protective gear.

Chances that the virus could “escape” that isolation chamber are almost zero, according to Emory officials. And the chances of a U.S. epidemic started by an infected airline passenger from Africa is almost as remote.

Some perspective is in order. While measles, a highly contagious viral disease that can be airborne, has almost completely been eradicated in the United States, nearly 300 people, most of them unvaccinated, have contracted measles in 15 different outbreaks so far this year. The outbreaks were caused by people coming to the United States from parts of the world where the disease still is rampant.

No one has died from measles in the U.S. since 2003, but with some parents refusing or neglecting to vaccinate their children, health care workers believe more deaths are inevitable. And that would be a higher death toll than has occurred because of Ebola.

By all means, avoid exchanging bodily fluids with strangers. But otherwise, your chances of getting Ebola are slim.

You need to worry more about measles.




August 9

Morning News, Florence, South Carolina, on water supply:


A major, modern U.S. city with nearly half a million residents just went days without drinking water. Treated water was unsafe for human consumption, even if boiled. You couldn’t even bathe or clean dishes with it.

That can’t be it, can it?

Unfortunately, it did happen, and it provides a frightening reminder of the very precariousness of one of our greatest resources: water.

If what occurred in Toledo, Ohio, didn’t serve as a wake-up call, it should.

Because here’s the worst part: What happened there can just as easily happen here.

An algae bloom turned the waters of Lake Erie from a crisp blue to a murky green. The algae is fed by toxins from excess nutrients flowing into the water from agricultural areas, urban sewage and industrial waste.

Newer, no-till farming methods leave phosphorus-rich fertilizer right on top of the soil. When heavier rains pound the ground, runoff is intensified if not properly controlled.

And despite scientists’ warning about the presence of algae, a bellwether of a water supply’s health, we usually don’t react until our spigot starts spewing pea soup.

Florence’s water system is well-managed and sufficiently resourced. When the water is flowing, it is easy to get immune to the potential problems.

But the danger lurks. Just look at the beleaguered system in Timmonsville. While it never rose to the level where public health was endangered, the system was beyond the control of the cash-strapped town. It was clearly on the brink until the city of Florence stepped in.

Small towns with dwindling populations - places like Timmonsville - are an unfortunate, but very real feature of the Pee Dee. Many of them existed in large part to supply essential services, like water, to their residential core. But as the towns have shrunk, resources have dwindled. Managing a complex, and expensive, operation like a water system is beyond the capabilities of many small places.

Pamplico needed penny tax funds to build a new water tank. It had been operating for five years with just one tank, putting residents there on the borderline for not having enough water storage capacity to support the system in a major emergency.

Maintaining a water supply that is plentiful and healthy takes a steady flow of funds, restrictions on runoff and comprehensive monitoring programs to ensure compliance.

It also calls on us to be responsible. The issues in Toledo were almost entirely man-made.

Until we become better stewards of water, it will keep happening.



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