web analytics
Google+

Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

Thoughts & Views: Ebola: More questions than answers

It’s not often that I agree with Chris Christie, but on the issue of mandatory isolation for certain persons returning to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted countries, he is 1,000% correct. Or maybe I should say, was correct.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the White House was “pushing” Christie and N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo “to reverse their decision ordering all medical workers returning from West Africa who had contact with Ebola patients to be quarantined” for 21 days.

On Monday morning came word that that the nurse quarantined at UMDNJ in Newark, who was raising a stink and threatening a lawsuit, would be released. As of press time, details were sparse, so I do not know if Christie himself had a change of heart.

At the same time, in New York, Cuomo was said to be “revising” the quarantine rule there.

So much for steadfastness.

Like everything else in the Ebola situation, uncertainty and confusion dominate.

Thus far, the Obama administration, and the Centers for Disease Control, appear to be completely clueless about how to manage, limit, prevent, whatever, the potential dangers of this disease to the American public.

Consider, for instance, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden’s statement during a press briefing that it was not possible to catch Ebola from sitting next to an infected person on a bus, but that such infected persons should avoid public transportation because they could spread the disease there.

Huh?

The next day, another CDC spokesperson clarified (if that’s the right word) that it was “not impossible” to contract Ebola on a bus.

For weeks, the public has been assured that to contract Ebola, one must come into contact with a sick person’s “bodily fluids.” According to the CDC’s website, these include “but [are] not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen.”

The same site says “Ebola is not spread through the air . . .”

Okay. But what about the mucus/phlegm from a sneeze or a cough? The reason we are supposed to cover our noses and mouths when sneezing/ coughing is because the germs can spread a fair distance. Through the air. Isn’t mucus a bodily fluid? Maybe I missed it, but have these questions been addressed?

Let me state that I in no way wish to promote some sort of Ebola panic, which some news reports appear to be flirting with. We are far from a pandemic’s threatening our shores. But I’d like to keep it that way.

My point is that we simply do not know, or have not been told, enough.

Remember the adage “Better safe than sorry”?

A 21-day mandatory quarantine, be it in an American hospital or in one’s own home, is neither cruel and unusual punishment nor a violation of one’s civil rights. I would think that any of these health-care workers returning from West Africa would gladly agree to a quarantine, or do they care less about the health of Americans than they do about others’?

Yes, they are heroes for the risks they have taken to help the stricken. But I’d think a hero wouldn’t mind 21 days – which isn’t much time at all – in a secure environment. It’s not like they’re being sent to Guantanamo.

As we have seen, voluntary isolation hasn’t worked. As Cuomo commented last week: “’Voluntary quarantine’? No. That’s almost an oxymoron to me.”

But that was last week.

Word has come that Florida and Illinois have now instituted mandatory quarantine rules.

Let’s see how long those last.

– Karen Zautyk 

CLARIFICATION

Last week’s opinion column “Gov’t stumbles threat to Republic?” was written by Ron Leir. His name was inadvertently omitted from the print edition of the paper.

WE’VE GOT MAIL

THANK YOU

To the editor: 

Queen of Peace Rosary Society Annual Tricky Tray met with success and much enjoyment.

The Rosary Society and Tricky Tray Coordinators would like to thank all the merchants and people of the community for their generosity and support.

Mary Ann Fazioli 

North Arlington  

THANK YOU, TOO

To the editor: 

On behalf of the Lyndhurst Music Association, we would like to thank the American Legion Post 139 for their help in planning and hosting the Lyndhurst Town Wide Yard Sale on Saturday, Sept. 27. With their support, we raised $1,690 to help restore the auditorium at Lyndhurst High School. Thank you to the American Legion Post 139, the Township of Lyndhurst and the families who participated in this worthwhile project.

Linda Stevens 

Lyndhurst Music Association 

WE’VE GOT MAIL

DONOVAN GOOD FOR BERGEN

To the editor:

I support Kathe Donovan. I read the articles, and the different spin that people put on them, but the bottom line is that Kathe Donovan has done the job of county executive the way it should be done.

Do we want someone who is a pushover and turns a blind eye to abuses? Certainly not.

Donovan has made the greater good of Bergen County residents her priority.

Over the past four years, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, lower budgets, more jobs for our residents, and a reduction in bloated government. That’s a difference we all benefit from.

So, when you get a call from someone who doesn’t live in Bergen County but who wants you to vote for a candidate because of how it will benefit them, just tell them you are sticking with the person who kept her promise to the people of the county.

We have a much better place to call home now because of Kathe Donovan.

The non-residents who want to influence the outcome of this election should think about moving back here.

Annette Bortone 

Lyndhurst 

Thoughts & Views: Gov’t stumbles threat to Republic?

I always liked to think of myself as a progressive minded member of society, sympathetic to the idea that government can play a positive role in providing the greater good for the greater number of people.

Things like Medicare, Social Security, pensions all make sense to me, as safeguards against old age and infirmity, particularly as I venture into my golden years.

But if we continue to rely on Uncle Sam to have our backs, the way FDR’s reforms intended, there’s reason to believe that we may not safely make it to the Promised Land.

Just look at the revelations about how federal transportation monitors sidestepped riding herd on GM’s faulty air bags, even after taxpayers provided a nearly $50 billion bailout package to the carmaker.

Or the reports about federal highway overseers overriding state concerns about the failure of guardrails to actually protect motorists from injuries upon impact.

Seems that whenever there’s an issue that impacts the welfare of everyday citizens, it’s corporate profits that always seem to prevail with federal policymakers.

Despite admissions that it’s too design-flawed to fly, the Pentagon continues to push for billions to fund a series of F-35 Lighting II fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed.

Despite being led – until recently – by a decorated combat vet, the Veterans Administration has let down many of our ailing servicemen and women in a stateside scandal linked to administrators’ avarice.

Until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent speech about security risks triggered by climate change, the U.S. has opposed signing any global treaties that would commit the nation to aggressively controlling fossil fuel emissions.

Federal agriculture officials have tamped down consumer advocates’ push for more rigorous inspections and enforcement of animal food processing regulations, preferring to have agribusiness look after its own operations.

Although federal regulatory agencies have signed off on banking reforms designed to prevent the creation of instruments based on high-risk assets sold to clients under false pretenses, the bankers have been granted some exemptions and compliance has been left to their own devices.

The highest court of the land has let stand a restrictive election law in Texas mandating voters to show photo ID at the polls, which, critics say, will lead to disenfranchising thousands of minorities. It has also justified a ban on citizen protest on the court’s outdoor plaza as not conflicting with the First Amendment.

One wonders if the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the newly appointed Ebola czar are up to the task of providing sufficient training for health care personnel at hospitals and airports entrusted with the unenviable job of intercepting and caring for people exposed to the deadly disease.

What lessons can we take away from these disquieting concerns? Are we wrong to put any trust in government for fear of betrayal? Should we rely only on our own enterprise to make things right for the greater good? Or, is the distance between the ideal and the reality just too wide to reconcile?

The Obama administration, or what’s left of it, will be gone before we know it, in the blink of a Beltway eye, and no doubt there will be the usual rash of books of blame by some of the folks who tried to steer the ship.

But I suspect that none of them will be able to satisfactorily explain how the elected leader of our Republic can translate good intentions to action without fear or favor of how those deeds will be perceived by a persnickety press, a chronically complaining Congress and demanding campaign donors.

In a country with so many and diverse constituent parts, it is a small miracle that anything is accomplished but I suppose the good thing about that is that between the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there’s plenty of room to maneuver in the system.

— Ron Leir

WE’VE GOT MAIL

‘SOBER HOUSE’ CONTROVERSY

To the editor: 

It was with a heavy heart that I read the Sept. 17 article “Sober house rattles residents.” I personally know and work with Charles Valentine and I have seen firsthand the good work that he does in the lives of those he and his wife, Lisa, serve. All I could think when reading the article was, “They don’t know Charles.”

I certainly understand the desire of the residents of Kearny to feel safe, and to provide a safe haven for their children. As the mom of two small children, I understand this passionately and with vehemence. That is why I must write in support of Charles, Lisa and Valentine House. Charles has centered his life around doing the work of Jesus by helping the forgotten, the underserved and the broken. And who of us does not have a broken part in our lives? Who is not in need of some love, compassion, and a helping hand occasionally?

I implore you: Give Valentine House and the men who live there the chance you would hope to have yourself, or the chance you might hope for your child, your father or your brother. Because that’s who’s living there: someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s brother.

Kerry Connelly 

Community Involvement Coordinator 

The LIFE Christian Church 

West Orange 

Thoughts & Views: The day that saw hell on earth

Hell_web

Oct. 8, 1871, was a really bad day for the American Midwest.

As we learned Sunday at the Kearny Fire Department’s Open House (see story p. 3), national Fire Prevention Week is held the week of Oct. 8 to mark the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

That historic blaze (which was NOT started by Mrs. O’Leary’s much-maligned cow) broke out about 9 p.m. on the 8th, consumed much of the city on the 9th, and more or less burnt itself out on the 10th, with a little help from a rainstorm.

In the 19th century, Chicago was primarily a city of wood. Not only most of its buildings, but also its sidewalks and many streets were wooden. Add to that all the tarred roofs, and a three-month drought, and numerous lumber yards and coal yards within the city limits, and strong winds blowing the embers hither and yon, and the fact that the Chicago Fire Department’s equipment amounted to 17 horse-drawn engines, and it’s a wonder the flames didn’t spread to Milwaukee.

When it was over, 300 people were dead, more than 100,000 were homeless, and 17,500 buildings were in ashes. The death toll is likely inaccurate, since there was speculation that people jumped into the Chicago River to escape the flames, drowned and were never found, and others may have been completely incinerated.

As for the O’Learys, although the blaze is thought to have begun in or near their barn, the tale of a cow kicking over a lantern while being milked has been debunked. First of all, cows are usually asleep at 9 p.m. But in any case, the Chicago Tribune reporter who originally wrote the bovine story finally admitted in 1893 that he had made the whole thing up because it made good copy. (For shame.) To this day, the actual cause is unknown.

Now, as devastating as the Chicago fire was, it could not hold a candle to another conflagration on the very same day. But aside from those living in the area, relatively few people have ever heard of it, although it claimed more lives than any fire in U.S. history.

In Peshtigo, Wisc., a logging town, woodlands were being cleared by small, controlled fires. But on Oct. 8, 1871, a cold front swept in with strong winds that, according to Wikipedia, “fanned the fires out of control and escalated them to massive proportions. A firestorm ensued.”

Described as “nature’s nuclear explosion,” a firestorm is a tornado of flames.

One book, “Firestorm at Peshtigo,” cited “a wall of flame, a mile high, five miles wide, traveling 90 to 100 mph, hotter than a crematorium.”

Though the blaze began in a forest, it spread over 1.5 million acres and consumed 12 communities. The death toll, at minimum, was 1,200, but some estimates are as high as 2,500. Many victims were buried in a mass grave, because there was no one left alive to identify them. And yet, Peshtigo is now forgotten.

That’s the history lesson for today.

Spare a thought for all fire victims. And all firefighters.

– Karen Zautyk 

Am I worried? Not if I don’t turn on the news …

news_web

Confronted with the widespread chaos and hardship around the globe, every time I pick up a newspaper or listen to the news on various media, I invariably want to bury myself in a good book or watch an old movie or sports event as a welcome distraction.

Or take a retrospective look back into a seemingly simpler time in my youth: remembering my paternal grandfather – a self-employed tailor who had somehow found the courage to uplift himself and his family from a village in Russia at the turn of the last century – and start life over again in the U.S.

At home, after a full day at his tailor’s bench, he liked to kick back by sipping a glass of tea flavored with a white sugar cube and playing checkers with his grandson. I don’t remember every seeing him excited or flustered about anything.

But in today’s fast-paced world, there seems to be a crisis every moment: the spread of Ebola, global warming, drought in California, the continued deforestation of the Amazon, the slaughter and/ or displacement of civilians in Syria, Somalia, Gaza, drone attacks conducted by the U.S.

The tabloids decry the beheadings of journalists and aid workers by the ISIS extremists and Obama calls on the U.S. and its allies to send troops as “advisers” to the Iraqi military.

It wasn’t that long ago that the U.S. was invading Iraq and decrying the dictatorship of Syria’s Assad regime and now the tables have turned.

Witness the American support of the new post of “chief executive” in Iraq – a position not included in the country’s constitution but inserted as a way for the U.S. to prop up a puppet government there.

And our presence in Afghanistan – on the heels of Russia – only helped feed the insurgents’ cause to kick out foreign invaders, in turn, kindling an even more violent reaction by the extremist Islamic State.

Obama says it’s up to America – with the most powerful fighting force in the world – to “lead” but to not be the world’s policeman every time. That poses an interesting dilemma: how do you “lead” without managing to impose your political agenda or military might?

I reasoned with a politically aware friend that perhaps we – with our allies, whoever they turn out to be – have a moral obligation to send boots on the ground into the Middle East to defeat ISIS, just as we did in World War II to stop Hitler. He disagreed on the grounds that we’ve had a habit of not opposing overseas dictatorial atrocities in the name of political expediency.

I can’t argue with that proposition but I feel it doesn’t excuse not taking action now to quash a force set upon the destruction of anyone who, in their eyes, fails to conform to the rules of the Caliphate they wish to set up as the only law of the land. It’s a call to arms that has attracted believers from Europe and the U.S.

Meanwhile, maybe we’ll find a way to intervene in Hong Kong where youthful demonstrators look to apply democratic principles to overturn Beijing’s rules on how presidential candidates are to be selected. The irony there, the N.Y. Times tells us, is that local merchants – already preyed on by gangs taking a piece of the profits – have joined pro- Beijing thugs in removing the protestors’ Occupy Central tents from the clogged retail district.

Things have gotten so strange that states like California and New York have passed legislation mandating “clear assent” to sexual relations between students in the state university system, as a response to the hundreds of rape cases reported on campuses, coast to coast.

It’s enough to send me to the Mets’ clubhouse to cheer up Sandy Alderson. After all, he just got a new 3-year deal to make that team into a contender again.

When you compare that mission to everything else going on in the world, it’s a cinch.

– Ron Leir 

A fish story

goldfish_web

While contemplating topics for this week’s column, I considered our President’s abysmally belated response to the ISIS threat.

I considered the renewed debate over climate change.

I considered our governor’s increasing wanderlust, which appears to be in direct correlation to his decreasing waistline.

I considered the $17.9 trillion national debt.

And then I decided: Enough with the serious stuff. This week’s column will be about goldfish.

Initially, the idea stemmed from a news item about an Australian goldfish named George whose owner paid for brain surgery on the aquatic pet when it was diagnosed with a tumor.

Yes, brain surgery.

The veterinarian who performed the 45-minute operation in Melbourne noted: “George had a quite large tumor . . . and it was beginning to affect his quality of life.”

The BBC reported that the 10-year-old fish was sedated during the surgery and afterwards was given antibiotics and painkillers. The vet said that all went well and the next day George “was up and swimming around.”

At first, I was going to make mock of all this. However, according to the BBC, “Experts say the $200 procedure may have bought George another 20 years of life.”

What? Goldfish can live to be 30? Mine lived an average of 30 days. I’d come home from school to find them belly-up in the bowl, or they’d commit suicide by leaping out of the water when no one was around to rescue them. I began to wonder if Woolworth’s was selling depressed fish.

Now I wonder if I had made them depressed. They always had clean water and sufficient food, but their bowl was small and lacked accoutrements, such as one of those tiny castles. They were probably bored to tears.

Researching goldfish for this column, I have learned many things, including that, in some places, goldfish bowls (the same kind I had) have been banned “on animal cruelty grounds.” Because the fish have both high oxygen needs and a high waste output, “such bowls are no longer considered appropriate housing.”

From Wikipedia, I also learned the following:

• Goldfish “have a memory- span of at least three months and can distinguish different shapes, colors and sounds.”

• Goldfish are gregarious and can respond to their reflection in a mirror. • Their behavior can be conditioned by their owners.

• They can distinguish between individual humans. When their owners approach, some may “react favorably (swimming to the front of the glass, swimming rapidly around the tank, or going to the surface, mouthing for food).” When strangers approach, they may hide.

• Goldfish that have “constant visual contact with humans stop considering them to be a threat. After a time, it becomes possible to hand-feed a goldfish without it shying away.”

• By using positive reinforcement, goldfish can be trained to perform tricks.

(Tricks? What tricks? Playing dead? Uh-oh.)

And:

• “Very rarely does a goldfish harm another goldfish.” (Which makes them superior to some humans, especially certain NFL players.)

I found no reference to 30-year lives. However, Wikipedia says “the lifespan of goldfish in captivity can extend beyond 10 years.”

Which is nine years and 11 months longer than mine lived.

I realize now that they really were depressed. I treated my goldfish as a form of aquatic decor, and I could have been teaching them tricks. They were starved for attention, not food. And they were confined in a bowl. They had no quality of life. I should write a song: “My Goldfish Has the Blues.” I cod call it sole music. For either a bass or an Irish tuna.

(Stop groaning. At least I didn’t say I wrote this just for the halibut.)

– Karen Zautyk 

WE’VE GOT MAIL

‘SOBER HOUSE’ CONTROVERSY

Dear Editor:

Having grown up in Kearny and being a licensed minister for the past 32 years, I offer my comments regarding the “Sober House.”

First of all, Kearny has a rich history of supporting those in need and giving people second chances. That is not the debate point here. The point of debate is the manner in which the organization occupied this house.

Mr. [Charles] Valentine does not understand “what the neighbors are going through” because I believe he simply does not care about the neighbors. He made this dramatically obvious by not connecting with them prior to violating numerous town ordinances by occupying the property.

If he were concerned, would not the good-neighbor thing be to knock on their doors to introduce and discuss the idea before moving in and creating a uproar?

“We’re an asset to the community,” he states. Prove this by engaging with the community instead of picking a fight with it.

Garry Senna

Haymarket, Va.