- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Feb. 3

The News & Record of Greensboro on watching for the Zika virus:

The mosquito seen as the primary carrier of the Zika virus, Aedis aegypti, is found in North Carolina, state health officials say. That’s a reason for concern but not panic.

“It’s not too long before pregnant women in North Carolina will get bitten by mosquitoes and will want to know what to do,” Dr. Randall Williams, state health director, said on a warm first day of February.

Williams was a practicing obstetrician for 30 years, so he understands the fears expectant mothers will have. He and colleagues worked all weekend to prepare the state’s initial response to an outbreak the World Health Organization on Monday labeled a global emergency.

The Zika virus is spreading “explosively” throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the WHO says. Dozens of cases have been reported in the United States, all among people who recently traveled to infected areas. None has been found yet in North Carolina. When mosquitoes begin buzzing across the Southern U.S., that could change.

Zika causes mild symptoms in most people - commonly a rash and red eyes. Less frequently, it can result in fever, joint pain and muscle aches. However, it’s strongly suspected to cause microcephaly in newborns, a condition characterized by abnormally small heads and restricted brain development. Thousands of cases have been seen in Brazil and neighboring countries.

Aedis aegypti’s northern range barely crosses the North Carolina state line, so Guilford County and most parts of our state are theoretically safe. But that range could creep northward over time. Also, there is some evidence to indicate the more widespread Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, also may transmit the virus. It is found throughout North Carolina.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory Tuesday recommending that pregnant women avoid travel to areas of infection. Anyone who suspects infection should get tested.

But, even if they never leave North Carolina, pregnant women should minimize their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. They should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use insect repellent when outdoors. They should keep windows closed or screens in place. They should try to eliminate areas of standing water, even small puddles, where mosquitoes can breed.

There is no vaccine against the Zika virus, but developing one certainly will become a high priority. History offers some hope. Yellow fever and malaria once were prevalent in the Southern U.S., including North Carolina. Mosquito eradication and other strategies eliminated those diseases in this country. There are preventative vaccines or medications available for travelers visiting countries where malaria and yellow fever still exist.

This new threat is a cause for concern, and public health agencies must watch for developments and keep people informed. The situation is far from a crisis in the United States. But a strong, careful response is needed to keep it from reaching that point.

Online:

https://www.greensboro.com

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Jan. 31

The Charlotte Observer on state lawmakers considering major change for UNC admissions:

Instead of admitting marginally qualified high school graduates to UNC system campuses where they will likely struggle, why not steer them to two years of community college first?

That’s the question leading Republicans in the legislature want answered. They say too many marginal students are racking up student debt and washing out at UNC campuses when they might have been better served attending a two-year school.

No more than 20 percent of UNC’s least-qualified admittees ever graduate from UNC campuses, said Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who chairs the House education appropriations committee.

Under the N.C. Guaranteed Admission Program, students who accept the community college detour and finish an associate’s degree within three years would be able to complete their bachelor’s degree at the UNC school they originally sought.

Last fall, GOP leaders placed in the state budget a directive for UNC and community college officials to study how such a program might work and to report back by March 1.

It’s a win-win proposition, Horn told the editorial board last week. Students get lower tuition bills, extra preparation for the rigors of UNC work, and an associate’s degree along the way. Even if they drop out, he said, they’d leave with less debt.

UNC system officials are worried about the proposal. We have questions, too. It raises a host of issues with far-reaching consequences for families and universities.

For instance, what yardsticks would be used to determine who qualifies as marginal? Would deferral be a friendly suggestion to the student, or a direct order?

UNC campuses would surely lose funding. How much would they lose, and what would they have to cut to balance shrinking budgets?

UNC officials note that their graduation rates remain above the national average, and that a quarter of their students enter as transfers.

Half of those transfers come from N.C. community colleges, reflecting a growing collaboration already at work between the two systems.

Lawmakers would be well-advised to remember that North Carolina’s college readiness problem begins long before college.

Our high school graduation rate stands at an impressive 85 percent, but nearly half of N.C. high school graduates fail to meet any of the four ACT college readiness benchmarks.

The report lawmakers directed UNC and community college leaders to compile is expected to be unveiled in February. Horn says he’s keeping an open mind.

Given the tense relations of late between legislative and UNC leaders, we hope all GOP leaders will exercise similar restraint, and that parents and students pay close attention to this critical debate. Online:

https://www.charlotteobserver.com

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Jan. 29

The StarNews of Wilmington on voting in North Carolina:

After urging potential voters to educate themselves on new voting procedures and be prepared to present an ID to cast a ballot March 15, we realized that we, too, needed a little more education on the subject.

In 2013, the N.C. General Assembly passed what was called by many the strictest voter identification law in the nation. Whether such measures were needed is, for all practical purposes, a moot point at this time. It’s the law.

Like any new law, it’s hard to know exactly how it will play out until it is enforced for the first time. That will happen at the polls March 15.

We realized we erred, however, by stressing that those going to vote must have all their ducks in a row regarding their ID before heading to the polls.

Yes, that would be ideal. However, since the General Assembly amended the law last year, the best policy, we believe, is to head to the polls even if you have no ID or think you have the wrong type of ID.

For right now, at least, the exceptions that were added to the law mean there’s not much chance you will be turned away. If you do not have the right form of ID, you may be asked to answer some questions and then be allowed to cast a so-called provisional ballot. It will then be up to the county board of elections to determine if the ballot qualifies.

The bottom line is simple — you do not have to have an ID to vote. If you have the correct ID, voting should go smoothly. We encourage you to get one. If, however, you have no ID, you should still be able to cast a provisional ballot. The burden will be on election officials to apply the law.

If you don’t know where to vote, call your local elections board or visit StarNewsOnline.com/elections and scroll down the left side to the “LOCAL ELECTION RESOURCES” section. There you can use your address to find your polling place, check to ensure you are registered and see a sample ballot for the March 15 primary.

And an important reminder: Even if you are not interested in voting for a candidate in the primary election or if you are registered as non-partisan, you still can vote on the $2 billion statewide bond referendum.

Online:

https://www.starnewsonline.com

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