Sunday, February 15, 2015

Should Brian Williams return?


The tale of Brian Williams is a Shakespearean tragedy.  His hubris, his pride, and his sense of self-importance have brought Brian Williams down from his lofty position as the most trusted name in news.  As the saying goes, "the higher they are, the harder they fall."  This most definitely describes Brian Williams.

How did this happen?  Some embellishments and exaggerations in his reporting in the middle east wars became to be out and out falsehoods about his time embedded with the military.  And, the military wanted to set the record straight, which they did.  Brian Williams and his helicopter were never in direct fire and never took any hits from RGP's.  In fact, his helicopter was an hour behind those that were hit by enemy fire.

Why did Brian Willliams, the leading anchor in evening news, feel he had to embellish or exaggerate anything?  We all saw him as brave for being embedded with U.S. soldiers to begin with.  We saw and knew he was as close to the fighting as a newsman could get.  We believed and found accurate his reporting - what was the need to puff up his part in all this?

While Brian Williams was the most watched of the evening anchors, my preference to watch was ABC's Diane Sawyer or PBS Newshour with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.   Is it because I am a woman?  I'll admit that might be part of it, but mostly I find these three women to be the most accurate, trusted, and believable news anchors on television.  I was sad when Diane Sawyer left ABC.  

I had watched Brian Williams at times deliver the news, but he always came across to me as slick and a bit smug.  Therefore, I was not surprised when he was called out  for his embellished reporting of the middle east wars and his Hurricane Katrina reporting.  

To be honest, I have not been keen on NBC News for a while.  There always seems to be too much drama in its news department going all the way back to Jane Pauley.  I was quite disturbed at how NBC handled her departure from the Today show and the entrance of Deborah Norville to replace her.  

There is a ruthlessness at NBC News that I don't see on the other networks.  I was unhappy with how Anne Curry was treated and her departure from the Today show.  In fact, with Curry's departure I have not viewed the Today show since then.  I do not care for Samantha Guthrie at all, and I feel that Anne Curry was the best reporter on the Today show - yes even better than Matt Lauer.  Perhaps that is why he eagerly helped in Curry's departure.

I am also sad to see David Gregory dumped from "Meet the Press."  I thought he was an intelligent, thoughtful, and assertive reporter and moderator on this show.  Again, I do not care for Chris Todd, who replaced Gregory on "Meet the Press."  Will there ever be a moderator like Tim Russert?.  No, he was unique - perhaps his son can fill his shoes someday. 

And now Brian Williams.  NBC News is a mess and has been ever since Tom Brokaw retired from the anchor's chair.   

Can Brian Williams redeem himself?  I don't know.  All a news anchor / reporter has is his or her credibility and sterling, accurate reporting.  Without those two qualities an anchor / reporter is not worth his or her salt.  

For the next six months, I urge Brian Williams to look within himself for the answers.  He is the only one who can fix his credibility issue.  Perhaps he can do some grunt reporting and/or write a book without embellishments and exaggerations.  Perhaps he can tone down the slick and smug image that come across in his reporting.  Perhaps he can go back to where he began to find himself again.  

I do not wish anyone ill and I do believe everyone deserves a second chance.  Should Brian Williams return to NBC News?  I don't know.  Will Brian Williams return to NBC News? Again, I don't know.   Only Brian Williams can answer these questions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vaccination War


This is the 21st century right?  When it comes to vaccinating children against diseases some parents have slipped back to the 19th century.  

What is so horrifying is that measles had been eradicated in this country back in the the year 2000, but now an outbreak in Disneyland in Anaheim, California has brought back this horrible childhood disease.  From California, the measles have traveled to approximately 30 other states in the U.S.   Today, we have more than 100 cases of measles in the U.S. and that number is rising every day.

How did this happen?  We have parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated against measles and other virulent diseases.  They wrongly believe that vaccinations are causing autism in children.

This theory has been debunked for nearly ten years now.  The study made of vaccinations causing autism has been proved to be wrong and the doctor conducting the study has been stripped of his medical license.  The science says vaccinations of any kind do not cause autism.  

So why are upper middle class soccer moms and dads,  supposedly well educated, not believing the science which proves vaccinations do not cause autism or any other kind of mental illness?  Why are these parents violating common sense when the CDC announces that vaccinations are needed to stop the rampant rise of measles and that the vaccination does not cause autism? The CDC states that it is because of vaccinations that many childhood diseases have become rare or completely eradicated.

How in the 21st century have some parents, fearing the worst about vaccinations, harm innocent children that cannot have the vaccine, those under one year old and those children suffering from cancer?

When do the personal rights of parents take precedent over the best health of the entire nation?  

Now this vaccination conundrum has become political with President Obama urging parents to have their children vaccinated, and with presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Governor Chris Christie (NJ) weighing in that parents should continue to have the right to make the decision as to whether their children are vaccinated or not.

Governor Chris Christie's stand on this issue puzzles me because he was adamant that Kaci Hickox be quarantined for the Ebola virus when she returned from W. Africa as a nurse with Doctors Without Borders fighting the Ebola virus there.  Why does he now believe it is the parent's decision as to whether to vaccinate their children when measles are much more contagious that the Ebola virus?   And, those with measles or those who have been in contact with someone with measles and not vaccinated, should be quarantined.  Why is Christie not calling for quarantines now?

Every child should be vaccinated to prevent illnesses to the child and to other children especially those unable to be vaccinated because of age or illness.

Here are diseases that have been stopped by vaccines and which parents who do not vaccinate their children are putting those children and others at risk:

Measles is a viral respiratory disease which causes a fever, cold-like symptoms and a body rash.  The serious complications of measles include pneumonia, deafness, permanent brain damage and death.  A vaccine against this disease was licensed in the U.S. in 1963 and before that year there were up to four million illnesses and five hundred deaths each year from measles.

Pertussis or whooping cough causes violent, uncontrollable coughing.  The vaccine for this sometimes wanes and booster shots are recommended.  Widespread vaccination began in the 1940's and before then 200,000 children were sickened each year and approximately 9,000 died.

Mumps cause swollen salivary glands and are usually a mild illness that includes fever and muscle aches.  Complications of this disease include deafness and meningitis and are seen more in teens and adults.  This vaccination was licensed in 1967 when nearly 200,000 cases occurred annually nationwide.  Today, only 1,100 cases have been reported.

Rubella or German measles cause a rash and fever and is most dangerous if caught during pregnancy.  The complications of this disease are birth defects in the baby.  The U.S. vaccination for this disease began in 1969.

Diphtheria is a bacterial disease which causes neck swelling and thickening in the throat that causes breathing problems.  Diphtheria was a common cause of death and illness in the U.S. before the vaccination which began about eighty years ago.

Polio, which can be life threatening, causes flue-like symptoms and paralysis.  It has been mostly eliminated in the U.S.  A vaccine became available in the U.S. in 1955.

Tetanus or lockjaw can be a deadly disease that causes tightening of the neck and jaw muscles that makes swallowing difficult.  A vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in the 1930's.

Hepatitis B  is a liver attacking virus that can lead to liver failure or death.  There were almost 3,000 cases reported in 2012.  Vaccinations for this disease began in 1982.

Varicella, or chicken pox, has diseased approximately four million people in the U.S. and caused at least one hundred deaths each year before a vaccine was introduced in 1995.

Human papillomavirus or HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infection throughout the U.S.  Some types of this virus can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer and oral cancer.  A vaccine for this virus was licensed in 2006 for girls and women aged nine to twenty-six and in 2009 for boys and men in that age range.

Why parents would not want to protect their children from these life threatening diseases is beyond me.

Should these vaccines be required for all children?  I think so.

Source:  Akron Beacon Journal, February 7, 2015.