February 10, 2019
Measles surges again as it finds a weak spot: Anti-vax parents
If a disease were striking children, causing rash and fever and sometimes escalating to brain swelling, pneumonia and even death, there would be a public demand to do something about it.
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America did, and measles was declared eradicated here in 2000.
Now the malady is back in Illinois and at least nine other states, with two cases in downstate Champaign and an alarming breakout in the Pacific Northwest, where the governor of Washington has declared a state of emergency.
Blame a stubbornly resistant anti-vaccine movement driven by dangerous pseudoscience and the worst impulses of obsessive overparenting. "I know what's best for my child!" anti-vax parents say, and measles spreads.
The World Health Organization warned Thursday of a dramatic rise in measles cases globally as parents reject vaccines for their children. In Europe, measles cases reached their highest level in a decade in 2018. Outbreaks have hit the Philippines and Madagascar. In a world of global travel, these aren't distant concerns. A monthslong series of cases in New York has been traced to an unvaccinated child who caught the disease on a trip to Israel.
Measles can cause lifelong effects including deafness. It is ugly, with its blotchy, fevered spots, some of which leave permanent scars. It's highly contagious and miserable to experience.
A worried anti-vaccinations parent posted on Facebook to ask whether there were any precautions she could take to protect her 3-year-old from a measles outbreak. Ah yes, if only there were a way. She was rightly given a social media spanking.
Measles vaccine is 97 percent effective after two doses, which usually also protect against mumps, rubella and sometimes varicella, or chickenpox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A well-vaccinated population takes on a "herd immunity" that hinders outbreaks. Some states, including Washington, allow parents wide latitude in skipping the vaccine. The Washington legislature is now rethinking that.
"Thankfully, we live in a highly immunized community," Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, told the local News-Gazette. "That's why it doesn't go wild like a brush fire."
Watching plump, pure baby flesh pierced and feeling trepidation about how the child's system will react can be legitimately nerve-wracking for a parent. That's no license to avoid a medical necessity that protects child and community. The right to resist comes with a corresponding responsibility to back up that impulse with rigorous research.
Once more: Both studies that purported to find a link between vaccines and autism have been thoroughly discredited. There is no evidence connecting the two.
Seeking a second opinion may sometimes be wise. Opting out of sound medicine and public health policy in favor of conspiracy theories is not.
"All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunization should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible," children's author Roald Dahl wrote in a 1980s essay promoting vaccination. His daughter Olivia, to whom he dedicated "James and the Giant Peach," died of measles-induced encephalitis at age 7.
Dahl was onto something. Illinois is among states that allow "mature minors" a voice in their own medical care. Children of anti-vax parents are visiting websites like Reddit to seek advice on how to get vaccines all by themselves.
Now that's some healthy skepticism of unwise parenting.
February 10, 2019
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Illinois is betting big that gambling is an unadulterated good.
Change is coming to Illinois — a higher minimum wage first, soon to be followed by the legalization of marijuana.
Then there is sports gambling, which is an option due to a ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to action in many of the 50 states, federal legislation may be forthcoming.
Illinois, of course, is already up to its neck in legalized gambling that includes casinos, video gambling, the lottery and race tracks. Those activities generate substantial income, but not as much as some predicted. Further, it seems that placing video-gambling parlors on virtually every street corner is diminishing the amount of gambling that once was done at the state's 10 casinos.
Sports betting would be a whole new wrinkle on the gambling front, a government-overseen entertainment that would replace an illegal underground marketplace.
A recent study indicates that legalized gambling in Illinois would generate $12 billion in wagers, create 2,500 jobs and generate up to $100 million in tax revenue.
The authors of the study have their reasons for making that assessment.
But one ought to be careful about embracing predictions on a practice that is still a gleam in the eye of the revenue-hungry Gov. J.B. Pritzker and members of the General Assembly.
Further, it's important not to get caught up in the rush to pass legislation.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruling, gambling hustlers have been urging legislators in Illinois and other states to be among the first to pass legislation allowing sports gambling.
The theory is that those who strike first will reap the largest rewards.
There is merit to swift action, but not at the expense of making careful and thoughtful decisions about what's to be done.
Legislation authorizing casino gambling was rushed to passage, as was that creating the video-gambling frenzy. In retrospect, it looks as though state officials would have been better served to adopt a more deliberate and careful approach.
Instead, they acted in haste, and, as various reports have suggested, now repent in leisure.
The state has, historically, had a hard time passing gambling legislation because it turns into a scrum of conflicting interests, all of whom are looking to get rich at the others' expense.
Further, those who gained gambling privileges in one round of legislation — take the casino owners — vigorously resist proposals for new venues that would compete with their existing venues.
Does anyone think that the owners of casinos in Joliet and Des Plaines want to see another casino — or two or three — in Chicago? Absolutely not, and they're willing to spread plenty of money around in campaign donations or other forms of remuneration to see that it doesn't happen.
Adding sports betting to the gambling field ensures a major conflagration. But the impending battle will be less about the specifics of operations than it will be about who makes the big money from this new business.
Illinois is a huge state that has the capacity to make sports-book owners a whole lot of money. But which ones will it be? And what will the cost of the entry fee for those competing for the privilege of taking gamblers' money?
Ten states already have legalized sports gambling, none of them in the Midwest.
If Illinois follows, it will be a game-changer in terms of social mores, one not necessarily for the better. People will just have to wait and see what follows.
But don't buy the hype that another expansion of gambling will represent some kind of financial panacea for our financially challenged state.
Legal gambling generates revenue, but it also generates costs, including a fraying of the social fabric of society. After all, everyone can't be a winner.
February 10, 2019
(Decatur) Herald & Review
We support legalizing marijuana. Here are the hurdles we see.
The climate is right.
High on the list of changes planned by Gov. J.B. Pritzker is the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana. The timing for this legislation is even more favorable now than before the election.
Legalizing marijuana has been tried and tested by states before Illinois. There are substantial benefits that could help the state navigate budget problems and funding issues. It has the potential to infuse revenue at the ground level, as the retail market develops and helps stimulate the local economy. It has a proven record of reducing the impact of the opioid epidemic.
In November, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute published "The Financial Impact of Legalizing Marijuana in Illinois." The report noted taxation and regulation of marijuana in Illinois could create nearly 24,000 new jobs. Legalization would boost the state's economy by $1 billion per year and generate in excess of $500 million in new state and local tax revenue.
One of the most compelling reasons to move forward with legislation is the impact it has on the opioid crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control, deaths attributed to opioid overdose totaled 70,237 nationwide in 2017. In Illinois, there were 2,778 in 2017, which followed 2,411 in 2016 and 1,835 in 2015. In states that have already legalized marijuana for recreation, the number of opioid deaths is dropping. In some states, fatalities have fallen as much as 33 percent. It's a number we have to take seriously.
The climate is right in Illinois to take the next step in marijuana legalization, but that alone doesn't warrant charging ahead blindly. With other states having gone before us, there is no excuse for not moving methodically and purposefully in preparing to make this significant change. There is time to do it right.
Though Gov. Pritzker has made it clear that revenue through taxes is a priority, the predominance of the plan seems to focus on creating opportunities for minority businesses and benefits to communities affected by drug crime. There does not seem to be, however, a thorough analysis pondering through what system that revenue stream is built. If economics is one of the key reasons justifying legalization, that's a question that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
The process of legalizing a once illegal substance is challenging. It does not just involve taxes and licenses. It requires a transition from a pre-legal state to a post-legal one. Going from a high demand-high cost product with minimal market infrastructure to a lower demand-lower cost product once the market develops and stabilizes.
Colorado gained initial revenue simply by being a pioneer in legalization. As the market stabilized, production costs came down, reducing the tax revenue with it. California, meanwhile, taxes both by weight and by prices, leaving at least part of the revenue not dependent upon supply or increased demand to drive tax revenue up.
As a state, we're closer than we've ever been to legalized recreational marijuana. There are plenty of reasons to proceed, and plenty of reasons we should answer some important implementation questions before we finalize it.