- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Feb. 2

Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer on recent deaths in Afghanistan:

We may be down to about 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, but there are many more Americans still at risk there.

That message hit home with tragic force last week when three employees of Praetorian Standard, a Fayetteville-based logistics and security company, were killed in Kabul. It was another insider attack, carried out by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform, in an area of the Kabul airport reserved for the military.

The victims were Walter D. Fisher of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Mathew E. Fineran of Summerville, South Carolina; and Jason D. Landphair of Fayetteville. Fisher had worked as a police officer in Fayetteville until 2001. He was decorated several times for saving lives while he served here. Another Praetorian Standard employee was wounded but is expected to survive. The men were in Kabul to train members of the Afghan air force, under a Defense Department contract.

When we think about the American presence in Afghanistan, we tend to think about our soldiers. But the truth is that we have many more private contractors than soldiers there, doing jobs that range from security to maintenance.

And they are vulnerable too, a lesson we relearned last week.




Feb. 3

Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal on forcing Rep. Howard out of leadership:

Experience, hard work and service count. The new state House leadership would have done well to remember that lesson.

It’s disappointing to hear that long-time Republican legislator Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville has been removed from committee leadership positions in the state House, as the Journal’s Richard Craver reported last week. She will no longer serve as senior chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, in addition to losing leadership posts on the Ethics Committee and the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

Howard’s district takes in Davie and a portion of Forsyth. A Realtor and appraiser, she has served on the finance committee for 26 years.

The decision to remove her from these positions lies with new House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County, who was not available last week to answer questions about his decisions to the Journal. But Rep. Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County told the Journal that “there was a very talented freshman class elected in 2012. There will be some that will be moved up based on talent than necessarily seniority.”

Lambeth, in his second term in the House, was promoted to some important leadership positions: a chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a co-chairman of the Health Committee. We wish him well in helping our area and the state, as he has often done.

He told our editorial board: “Julia is a good friend and she has been very helpful to me.”

We’re troubled that a legislator of Howard’s proven ability lost her leadership posts over what appears to be petty politics.

“I was told if I didn’t vote for Tim Moore for speaker I would lose all of my committee chairs,” she told our board. She said she voted for Mitchell Setzer of Catawba County, with whom she has served for years.

And Moore may not have liked Howard’s independent streak.

Howard told us: “What I have done is try and be the conscience on the Finance Committee, because you only have so many dollars to spend. When it doesn’t fit, I have said, ‘We don’t have the revenue stream to do this.’ You don’t win friends doing that.”

This well-seasoned Howard has worked hard for our area and for the state. She took the latest news in stride, telling the Journal, “I’ve done lots of heavy lifting, always doing the best job possible and treating all members, regardless of party, fairly. It’s been lots of extra hours, but it is what it is. I will go to another committee and do the same.”

That’s an admirable attitude from an admirable woman. She is still on the Finance Committee, and did receive another leadership post: co-chairwoman of the Banking Committee. The legislature could - and should - continue to learn from her.




Feb. 3

Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer on loophole on vaccinations:

Government has long been fairly ambivalent about the health choices we make. You are welcome, without interference, to eat poorly, smoke a pack a day and overindulge in alcohol, so long as the consequences remain contained to you.

With our kids, however, things are a little more rigid. Government protects kids from poor parenting, both in passive ways such as mandating car seats for youngsters, and more aggressively by requiring that parents vaccinate children before sending them to public schools.

The debate surrounding those vaccinations has resurfaced this month as a small measles outbreak has spread from California to more than a dozen states. The outbreak has public officials sending non-vaccinated students home, doctors reexamining their immunization policies - and parents everywhere debating how much freedom you should have to put other children at risk.

As with most debates, the issue has taken on a political hue. Republicans are finding themselves caught between science and voters who resist the idea of government inserting itself into personal decisions. But vaccination is not a clean left-right discussion. Large pockets of parents in California and elsewhere choose to forgo vaccinations in favor of an all-natural lifestyle for their children. Others make the same choice not out of politics but fear, pointing to a 1998 study that linked vaccines and autism.

That study has been discredited, however, and scientists have subsequently debunked the notion that vaccinations lead to autism. Shunning vaccinations, however, can prompt outbreaks of diseases that previously were under control. That can put children, as well as adults with compromised immune systems, at risk.

That’s why states, including North Carolina, wisely have policies in place that require vaccinations for measles, mumps, polio and other diseases for children attending day care, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities.

Like many states, North Carolina allows exemptions for medical reasons, such as allergies, and religious beliefs. The medical exemption requires a request from a licensed physician, but the religious exemption requires merely a statement that includes the name and date of birth of the person for whom the exemption is being requested. No elaboration on the religious objection is needed, nor any evidence of religious affiliation or faith.

That’s a loophole that allows parents to game the system to avoid vaccination, and there are helpful anti-vaccine web sites that coach North Carolina parents on how to craft a letter that meets the requirements and won’t raise the eyebrows of public officials.

Although North Carolina is among the states with the highest vaccination rates, parents across the country are increasingly taking advantage of exemptions. N.C. officials should minimize the public health risk by tightening its loophole so that people with legitimate religious objections to vaccinations, such as the Amish, are distinguishable from those who merely have personal or philosophical objections.

Those who have the latter are welcome to deny vaccinations for their schoolchildren. But those children shouldn’t be allowed in school.



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