Contributor

Opinion: We Need To Hold MDX Accountable And Stop The 836 Extension

By: Jeffrey Solomon

Jeffrey Solomon is a chiropractor and the Democratic candidate for Florida House District 115. He was the United States Olympic Team Staff Chiropractor for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Below is his view on the proposed State Road 836 highway extension. 


On Thursday, September 27th, the Miami-Dade County Commission will vote on the application to extend the 836 highway.

I urge the County Commission to reject the application.

This 6-lane highway is a dangerous and expensive project that will put more cars on the road and promote more reckless development.

Studies on urban development make it abundantly clear: the more roads and bridges you build; the more cars will be clogging up streets.

It’s called induced demand and the same concept applies to development.

Extending this highway onto this very sensitive land will have commercial developers salivating with the thought of encroaching past the urban development boundary (UDB).

We should use the $1 billion cost of this highway and put it to work for the extension of the Metrorail.

It was recently made public that the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, or MDX, used $125,000 of our toll dollars to campaign in favor of the 836-highway extension.

They are using our money to convince citizens to let them take more money.

Without a doubt, this massive highway will have tolls on them.

It’s ludicrous.

The 836 at sunset. Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia

MDX was sued for their failure to release their records on the 836 extension campaign.

Additionally, the Florida Legislature amended MDX’s establishing legislation to use between 20%-50% of their surplus revenue for transit projects and that has not taken place.

There’s a fundamental problem here.

Tolls collect money for transportation projects.

We, the people, should get to decide what MDX does with this money because it’s our money.

For MDX to keep using public toll dollars for the construction of highways without end in sight is short-sighted and frankly undemocratic.

As I campaign in District 115, many residents have expressed their concerns with traffic.

This expensive and environmentally damaging highway must be stopped.

We need to provide relief.

As a member of this community, I’m confident this will not relieve traffic.

We should use the $1 billion cost of this highway and put it to work for the extension of the Metrorail.

It’s unfair that South West Dade residents need to drive to Dadeland mall to use it.

Metrorail and high-tech rapid transport will efficiently get people where they need to be, and actually reduce traffic.

Opinion: South Dade Needs Rail Not More Buses

Opponents to the extension of the Metro-Rail have claimed that the population in SW Dade is not dense enough to justify the expense.

There is a real yearning for rail that would connect commuters with the rest of the county.

It’s clear that more and more people are now and will continue to substantially increase the population of South West Dade County.

Extending the Metro-Rail West to Kendall and South West to Homestead will be proactive mitigation and accommodate the growing population with 21st century public transit.

Why are we not keeping up with world-class cities such as those in South East Asia?

Chinese citizens get to benefit from rapid systems with millions of people using them on a daily basis.

Why can’t all residents of Miami-Dade County benefit from such systems? It would relieve traffic and likely get people where they need faster. I want Miami-Dade County to be a leader in public transit.

I ask you to call your county commissioner today and urge them to vote NO on the 836 extension on Thursday Sept. 27 and attend the vote at 9:30am.

Find your commissioner here: https://www.miamidade.gov/commission/.

This expensive and environmentally damaging highway must be stopped.

We need to be proactive and not reactive and invest in smart traffic solutions like expanding Metrorail and high tech rapid transit.

——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——

Newly Reopened To The Public, Miami’s Iconic Freedom Tower Has Positioned Itself As An Ideas Hub

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital TV news network. Sign up for our awesome email newsletter to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it to editor@risenews.net.

Opinion: South Dade Needs Rail Not More Buses

What’s News In This Story?


 

–Florida State Representative Kionne McGhee believes that South Dade should be served by a new rail line like it was promised back in 2002. 

In an op-ed video for RISE NEWS, McGhee lays out why he believes that state leaders and Miami-Dade Transit have failed the people he represents. 

——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——

Newly Reopened To The Public, Miami’s Iconic Freedom Tower Has Positioned Itself As An Ideas Hub

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital TV news network. Sign up for our awesome email newsletter to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it to editor@risenews.net.

Haiti Suspends Oxfam Operations In Country Due To Sex Scandal Probe

Haiti on Thursday suspended the operations of British charity Oxfam pending the outcome of its investigation into allegations that its staff sexually exploited Haitians after a devastating 2010 earthquake. The country’s ministry of planning and foreign aid said Oxfam GB had made a “serious error” by failing to inform Haitian authorities of the actions by their… Read More

A Message To The Guy Who Honked

By Emily Chadwell

I’m not really sure why I am writing this.

You will never see it, but you did affect my day in a way that compels me to share.

When you slowed down your car, honked until I looked at you, and waved/winked/gesticulated towards me I did not feel special.

No longer was I a person on a run, no longer was I an athlete, no longer was I a human working on my mental/physical fitness.

I became a body.

I was legs.

I was breasts.

Whether or not it was your intention to turn me into these disconnected entities, you did.

Maybe you meant nothing by it; you liked my dog, or my shirt, or you just enjoy honking at people.

Photo Credit: Yann Cœuru/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

But, you took a woman who trusts her body, a woman who respects her body, and even loves it, and turned her into just a body.

I may be oversensitive or dramatic, but for the next 45 minutes my run was no longer about me; it was about how I looked.

Was my shirt too tight?

Were my pants too sexual?

Did my stomach jiggle when I ran?

Things I should never dwell on while working out.

I can’t blame you.

I can only blame the society that socialized you to honk, and me to smile back.

The society that taught you to feel like you had a right to comment on my external body and me to internalize being self conscious.

I don’t think my experiences are special, or deserving of extra attention.

I recognize that there are people who are victims of worse treatment every single day.

I only ask that people who don’t understand the way your actions impact the lives of others to try.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Jean-François Gornet/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Trump’s Constant Lying Is What Autocrats Do

By Christopher F. Arndt

First there was the birther theory, which Trump continued to champion in 2011 even after President Obama’s long-form birth certificate was shown to the world.

Then we heard statements like “Nobody really knows if climate change is real;” and, more recently, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

These are, of course, but a few of the countless lies Trump has uttered over the years, over the course of this past election cycle and since entering the White House.

To these we can now add the claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign – one that smacks all the more clearly of dishonesty now that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes has stated that he will not disclose his sources.

Our President’s unprecedented lying has many utterly baffled, as does the fact that Trump supporters often accept these lies.

For example,  74% of Republican voters think it’s at least “somewhat likely” that Donald Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Both the dishonesty and the continued belief by Trump supporters in “alternative facts” can be understood in the context of changes within the conservative movement that have come to the fore over the past fifteen years.

A scene from the Las Vegas skyline. Photo Credit: João Martinho/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Under normal conditions, a politician fibs to exaggerate the appeal of a program they support or to undermine an opponent’s position.

But they generally try to avoid obvious falsehoods.

Some of Trump’s lies follow this pattern, but most of his lies are different.

They are intentionally brazen.

In this way, they are a show of power, demonstrating the acquiescence of others to his will and the comparative impotence of those who stand by facts and against his word.

In short, Trump’s lies have an autocratic twist. Matt Steinglass, the current European editor for the Economist, captured this dynamic well in a 2009 piece on why Iran’s Ahmadinejad insisted on showing an implausibly large vote margin for his election victory.

This piece is dismayingly relevant now and worth quoting at length:

“[B]ullies often find it more effective to force people to acquiesce in an obvious lie than in a plausible fiction. Check out the ludicrous charges in the Stalin show trials: children’s book writers in Leningrad confessing to being Japanese spies, and so forth. When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.”

In essence, Trump is making Republican leaders – who know he is lying – complicit in their own oppression.

To be clear, we’ve seen some independence on the part of Republicans like John McCain.

But not a lot.

And, most recently, it appears that Devin Nunes is simply bending to Trump’s will.

This fealty to authority over facts runs directly against the beating heart of liberal democracy.

Why, then, does Trump get away with it?

The brief answer is that the American Right has been moving in this direction for more than a decade.

The movement has coalesced around an older, “monarchical” conservatism.

This movement is best understood as a temperament and a set of tendencies opposing change rather than a set of principles.

It runs counter to the enlightenment liberalism that forms the basis of our Constitution.

In my book, The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump, I map out characteristics of this “conservative temperament” including:

  • Viewing a leader’s personality and its force above process, institutions and the rule of law.
  • An ease with diminishing the value of facts to support the right leader.
  • A preference for absolute certainty regarding both policy and a leader’s style. This requires black and white simplicity in the way both are presented.

Understanding conservatism as such explains the appeal of Trump on the Right and the embrace of blatant falsehoods.

So far, the firing of Michael Flynn was an exception.

On the Right, there have been no real consequences to Trump’s blatant – and disgraceful – lying or that of his inner circle.

Which brings us back to autocracy, defined by Merriam Webster as “government in which one person possesses unlimited power.”

Christopher Arndt is author of The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Isabelle Blanchemain/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why Is It So Hard To Move Away From Fossil Fuels?

By Sonam Ahluwalia

The idea of a one-hundred percent clean energy future seems to be a pipe dream right now.

While there has been some tremendous progress made by private industry in the creation of innovative technologies to lead the transition from non-renewable resources like coal and natural gas to natural elements, the process has been painfully slow.

No matter the number of technologies created, private companies cannot move forward without the public’s support.

The largest challenge is unity.

The private sector lacks the current partnerships to address current issues with renewable energy.

For example, currently, wind turbines use many magnets derived from rare earth minerals- most of which are ripped out of the ground in China.

This has created an ecological disaster in areas there.

These minerals are also unreliable in the longterm because they are limited.

After all, you can only take so much out of the ground before you run out and searching for alternatives to these minerals requires collaboration, which can occur through partnerships that generates a more dependable and sustainable wind turbine.

Furthermore, there also needs to be unity between companies and the general public they service.

If engineers working on magnetic wind turbines or photovoltaic solar panels view their role as imperative innovators, the public can take the role as active supporters or consumers that create a market for renewable energy.

In short, we all have to be pushing in the same direction in order for this to work.

In order for the public to support the private industry, vice versa, the communication gap between these two entities needs to be closed.

This can happen through proper education and through transparency.

Many people do not understand the benefits of cleaner energy, or how much energy we currently waste and have stored in grids from excess.

Just like people learn how to turn on the lights, set up the television, and turn on the water, people should also know where these luxuries come from.

Proper education of the current, wasteful methods can influence a large portion of the public to support cleaner energy.

As people become more educated on sustainable options, a market for cleaner energy sources needs to be created – another challenge.

Supply and demand are interdependent.

For the private sector to gain more momentum, the public needs to show an appetite for cleaner energy sources.

As the demand for renewable energy increases, competition to meet the public’s requests will stimulate production of more affordable sustainable products with higher quality.

Affordability is imperative to consumers, and it is easier to convince someone to buy something that is more energy sustainable when they are able to understand the financial benefits.

Adding competition to the mix will push companies to fabricate better, cheaper ideas.

This in term will allow those products to be available to the general public at a competitive price point.

This sector’s growth requires regulatory policies to ensure that the energy is actually clean.

Since clean energy is an ever-changing field, creating policies to assure quality is a fairly new conflict the government must learn to follow.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Activ Solar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What It Really Feels Like When Your Terminally Ill Child Dies

By Sheryl Steines

That Moment in Time – When it felt time to have my first child, I knew it, and approached it as inevitable.

But my next steps in life didn’t follow a straight path, it jerked sideways and turned out nothing like I imagined it would.

I define my life as the before and the after; before the birth of my twins and the single moment when I thought I had reached the end of a long struggle with infertility, hoping that the girls’ birth would minimize the sadness of the time it took to get pregnant with them.

That single moment when I realized it was far from over, and I felt myself being wrenched down an unfamiliar abyss.

While I was elated to give birth to a perfectly healthy little girl named Kayla, I also gave birth to her twin, a perfectly imperfect daughter named Stephanie, born with an undiagnosed neuromuscular disorder that in the end, would take her from us within the first year of her life.

What should have been the happiest of days could best be described as bittersweet.

For months, I was lost in that single moment, and how everything changed.

Living with a Terminally Ill Child – Emotions and senses are heightened when living with a terminally ill child.

Her muscles were weak, which affected her breathing, eating, digestion, and bowels.

She couldn’t sit or roll over.

She would never be able to eat, stand or sit without assistance.

Nothing in her life was normal, which meant that our lives became un-normal too.

Milestones, accomplishments, and even simple things like laughter were infrequent or just never happened.

Days and nights were consumed keeping Stephanie’s tiny, broken body stable and at peace.

For eleven months we had been successful and looking back now, the days flash by me in a blur, and yet, I can still relive them as if they were yesterday.

My daughter’s care routine involved round-the-clock nurses, feeding tubes, oxygen tanks, and medical equipment that beeped.

It was difficult to obtain medicines; and oxygen tanks ran empty on weekends.

Unfortunately, many times we were forced to wait for care because services and goods were not available until after a holiday or weekend.

These stressors tied me to a single moment in time, it is like I went through the motions.

The world was moving, but I felt stuck.

Unable to let it go, I couldn’t help but wish things had been different, normal, familiar.

I was angry, I was hurt and I was jealous.

In fact, the angst, anger, and sadness was compounded as one child thrived normally and hit her milestones with ease.

It became so obvious that Stephanie lagged far behind.

She would never roll over, sit up, drink from a sippy cup, crawl or walk.

I was forced to come to very difficult terms and make some very hard decisions.

Joy in the Darkness – From the start, we knew there was no cure for Stephanie’s disease because there was no real diagnosis.

The only truth we understood–Stephanie would die.

So I worked hard to find joy in a hopeless situation.

There might not be joy in the traditional sense of caring for a terminal patient, but what you come to understand is that there are good, kind people who give you a glimmer of help and hope.

Volunteers filled my life for 11 months.

Whether they held my child in the ICU when I couldn’t be there to do it myself or came to my house to run errands so I could have just a few moments of down time.

There are no words for the care and comfort from strangers who ask for nothing in return.

Nurses taught me how to be a mommy to a terminally ill child, encouraging me to hold my child without fear.

They offered suggestions on how to bond, by taping myself reading a book and leaving the tape at the hospital so my child would know my voice.

Stephanie did know my voice and it made her happy when she heard it.

I will never forget a very grim and private conversation with the hospice nurse, who allowed me to speak freely, without shame as I dealt with the most difficult of situations.

At the worst of times, when I could no longer travel with Stephanie, because she outgrew the only car seat that could protect her in her condition, her pediatrician came to the house to examine her.

I liked him before he did this and I would forever appreciate his kindness, long after she died.

It all Stopped the Day She Died – Life moved slowly, sluggish and tight; what I imagine walking through quicksand would feel like.

That is until a new moment jerked me from what finally felt familiar, and a new moment chased me down.

I will never forget my new single moment when I watched my baby die.

The end of caring for a terminally ill child came to me in two stages.

The first was relief that I no longer had to live in the midst of the stress nor the need to care so intensely.

Though the relief was filled with great sadness, I had little time to dwell on it.

There was still so much we had to do for the funeral, and for my surviving twin who still needed care and love.

At least for the time being, I had no medicine, beeping equipment, nurses, or that stress that comes with survival.

The second stage was the overwhelming sense of loss that finally hit me.

All of the stress and the feelings that had been tightly kept inside, bubbled to the surface.

Four months after my daughter died, I came face to face with the raw grief.

I’m part of a club that I would prefer not to be a member of.

I don’t look for a greater meaning or purpose in my daughter’s disease and death.

I simply survived it and came through to the other side with a realization that so many in this world have great struggles.

Sadness will never leave me and though I will always have a missing piece from my heart, I came out stronger, more compassionate and empathetic to others and the struggles they try to overcome.

Stephanie’s short life and eventual death inspires me to continue living, creating, growing and accomplishing; to leave behind a legacy.

I have a strong desire for my children to be proud of me, and for me, proud of myself.

I live, not because my daughter died, but because I am here.

Learn more about Sheryl Steines at www.sherylsteines.com and connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinked In and Goodreads. Her new book, Black Market is available on Amazon.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Paulius Malinovskis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s A Reminder That Justin Trudeau Is Not A Disney Prince

By Criswell Lavery

Before starting this article, I didn’t know a lot about Justin Trudeau.

Many (white, liberal Americans) think of the young Prime Minister and immediately connect him with the monikers “feminist”, “pro-LGBT”, “pro-choice”, all of which are correct.

But very few know much more about him.

I had seen a few articles floating around talking about his stance on foreign policy, his interactions with the First Nations’ peoples, and his meeting with Donald Trump, but never stopped to read them or look further.

Like many, I was blinded by Trudeau’s liberal social values and his fabulous hair, and thought of him only with a vague fondness.

This is a trap that many fall into, even in our age of easily accessible information.

We see articles about how he’s let over 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada since he took office in 2015, and don’t see the one about the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).

This agreement was set to reduce 98% of tariffs on trade between Canada and the European Union and cause a small increase in jobs.

It also has provisions which are very similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), providing corporations with a huge amount of privileges and legal rights, allowing for them to sue entire governments to change laws and standards that impede their function.

CETA gives Canadian and European corporations these same rights, as well as giving international companies bidding rights to areas in cities, First Nation communities, and providences.

Despite the job growth and tariff reduction, it’s heavily weighted to favor big business, which one would think our Disney prince Prime Minister would be against, right?

Nope.

Prime Minister Trudeau had been pushing the agreement for months before it was signed in October 2016, and was ratified this February.

It’s been a big part of the reason recent press coverage has turned against Justin Trudeau, changing from their pretty steadily positive reporting to something a little more mixed.

He wholeheartedly supports CETA, which definitely did not fit with the ideal image of him that my little liberal heart had created.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.

A very controversial issue in Canada, just as it is in the USA, is indigenous peoples’ rights.

Like the tribes in the United States, the First Nations have been brutally treated and forced out of their lands since white people first got there, hundreds of years ago.

When Prime Minister Trudeau took office, he promised to bring the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law in Canada.

This document affixes the inherent rights of indigenous people, including the right to self-determinism and the right to not be forced to assimilate to the incumbent culture.

While the protection of indigenous culture seems like it should be assumed and respected, it’s not currently legally required.

Despite frequent promises to bring this into the new Canadian administration, in July of 2016, Trudeau’s Justice Minister stated that they would not be adopting the UN’s Declaration into law, that it “makes no sense.”

In breaking this promise, Trudeau lost a lot of respect and trust among the First Nations.

In the following year, many new blunders involving the treatment of indigenous peoples have been made, one being the support of the Site C dam, a hydro-electric power generator being proposed to be built on the Peace River in British Columbia.

The dam would destroy ancient burial grounds and threaten traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

In addition, Canada’s energy need hasn’t grown in recent years, and they even have a surplus of clean energy.

The support of this project is another check on a list of broken promises and backtracking.

Here’s the thing, I don’t necessarily think that Justin Trudeau is a bad person.

I can’t make that judgement.

Do I disagree with many of his policies?

Absolutely.

Do I agree with others?

Sure.

I’m not trying to condemn everything he’s ever done, I’m trying to illustrate the very gray nature of politics today, and the dangerous habit people have to put things in black and white.

When we’re distracted by buzzwords and a certain Prime Minister’s blinding smile, we fail to hold people accountable for their actions.

We don’t demand answers or retribution when they mess up or don’t follow through.

As much as we might like to think so, Trudeau isn’t a Disney prince.

He’s human, and a powerful political figure.

Let your ideal go, and demand answers when you have questions, ask for retributions when promises are broken.

Disney princes are perfect.

People are not.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Mohammad Jangda/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Admitting Your Machine Backing Isn’t Courageous

By Mike Smith

Alabama SGA Presidential candidate Jared Hunter dropped a bomb on campus politics after he wrote a piece in The Crimson White acknowledging his Machine backing.

It was a bold, surprising act rarely seen among Machine supported candidates.

The response on social media so far has been a mixture of appreciation and support.

I am here to say that this should stop.

Don’t get my wrong, publicly announcing your Machine backing takes a lot of guts and the honesty Jared displayed should be admired.

But that doesn’t make his actions right.

No matter what is written in a Crimson White column, the fact still stands that The Machine acts as a vehicle for certain Greek students to pad their resume and has systematically oppressed women and minorities for a century.

I will remind you that The Machine has burned crosses on campus lawns, painted swastikas on university sidewalks, and literally physically assaulted an independent presidential candidate.

Jared Hunter is the Machine backed candidate in the SGA election. Photo Credit: Facebook

Within the past decade alone, The Machine has systematically suppressed numerous rape allegations among their members, tossed out FYC applications for black students after labeling them with the N-word, and delayed the racial integration of sororities until 2013.

Being associated with this organization is not something that can be written off in one column.

Read More: Here’s Why The Current State Of Student Government Elections Are Killing American Democracy

Having its support is not a cute, little trivia fact.

Being backed by The Machine is something to be ashamed of.

Lillian Roth getting sworn in as SGA President in 2016. Photo Credit: Lillian Roth/ Facebook

SGA candidate Gene Fulmer. (r). Photo Credit: Trinidad Miller/ Facebook

Over social media, I have heard plenty of people say that admitting to be a Machine candidate takes some real courage.

I vehemently disagree.

It takes real courage for my friends who stay in their Machine sororities even though they have verbally abused, socially ostracized, and personally threatened.

It takes real courage for Lillian Roth (the incumbent and prior Machine backed candidate) to run for re-election even after some of her best friends started working against her.

It takes real courage for Gene Fulmer to run a huge grassroots campaign in the face of two giant competitors.

It doesn’t take real courage to admit something everyone already knew.

Read More: This “Funny Map” Of Tuscaloosa According To An Alabama Student Is Hilarious And Sort Of Spot On

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo: The University of Alabama/ Facebook

RFK Jr And Donald Trump Might Team Up To Undermine Vaccinations

By William B. Miller, Jr, M.D.

Only a few weeks into a new administration and with it comes unwelcome medical news.

The age-old debate about the safety and appropriateness of vaccination has been renewed and a vocal stage has been delivered to a small group of anti-vaccination zealots.

Reports have circulated that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, a highly visible critic of vaccination, has been invited to chair a commission on vaccination safety by the new administration.

If it comes to pass, one result can be accurately predicted.

It will become a confused platform of ideological rhetoric that will diminish trust in those scientific bodies charged with making sound judgments for the public welfare.

This inevitable outcome is particularly unfortunate since there has never been any advance in medical history that has had a more positive impact on our lives than vaccination.

Humanity has been in eternal conflict with infectious disease throughout history.

Perhaps no disease better illustrates the vast range of impacts of epidemic disease than smallpox, which resulted in the deaths of more than 7 million people.

Similar horrific mortality was experienced with smallpox.

In 18th Century Europe, at least 400,000 people died annually from smallpox.

One-third of the survivors went blind.

Mortality rates were as high as 60% in some communities.

Infant mortality was even more frightening, approaching 80%.

The ultimate success of smallpox vaccination is credited to Sir Edward Jenner in England.

In 1796, he successfully introduced the technique of cowpox vaccination demonstrating its subsequent protective effect against smallpox.

Today, due to the effectiveness of worldwide smallpox vaccination programs, that disease has been effectively eradicated from the planet.

However, this is not the case for other consequential infectious diseases.

Two years ago, a whooping cough epidemic swept through California where vaccination rates are steadily lagging.

Contrary to any ordinary expectation, it is often the most affluent parents who are shunning immunization.

Some of these anti-vaccine proponents are highly educated people being misled by social media.

The trend appears to have originated with a fraudulent report in a British medical journal linking vaccination with autism.

This report was subsequently revealed to have been based on fraudulent research and was retracted by that scientific journal.

Similar rumors that vaccine stabilizers, such as thimerosol, contribute to autism have also been refuted.

Nonetheless, damage has been done by ill-informed repetition.

There is no doubt that those parents that refuse to vaccinate their children are well meaning.

However, their actions are ill advised on two levels.

The first is that refusing to appropriately vaccinate themselves or their child exposes both of them to the risks of deadly infections that can be entirely avoided.

Yet, although vaccination is safe and highly effective it does have its limits.

This links to the other critical factor that makes universal vaccination so crucial.

No vaccination ever devised provides 100% protection and some individuals in any population cannot be vaccinated.

This includes very young infants whose immune systems are not yet mature enough for vaccination and members of our community that are immunosuppressed due to diseases that weaken their immune system from a variety of illnesses including cancer.

Their protection is through our actions.

When there are high levels of vaccination within any community, the infectious agent is unable to find enough hosts to reproduce and sustain itself within that population.

This level of community-wide protection is termed herd immunity.

It is our joint responsibility, all of us together, to be part of the process of achieving this level of immunity both in our own interests and for the protection of the other members of our community.

The next outbreak of a preventable infectious disease with its incumbent tragedies is always lurking.

A political committee to examine the evidence based on ideological biases is not needed.

Instead, our policies should rely on the expertise of already existing scientific organizations such as the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), an independent expert clinical and scientific advisory body, as well as our own Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

The critical ingredient to the success of vaccination programs is education.

Therefore, there needs to be a concerted program to recover our eroded memories of the consequences of now distant epidemic diseases that have been conquered or reduced through vaccination.

The success of vaccination programs depends on being familiar with the bitter lessons of our continuous struggle with epidemic disease. Such an educational process must be ever ongoing.

Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. For more information on him you can visit, www.themicrocosmwithin.com.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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