, Newburyport, MA

July 9, 2013

What New England's talking about

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Excerpts from editorials of other New England newspapers:

Observing the centennial anniversary of the Civil War in the early 1960s was a national fixation, but a central element of the story, slavery, and the role of blacks as soldiers was minimized in the many official observances. July 1 marked the 150th anniversary of the second day of the war’s greatest battle, at Gettysburg, and despite the crowds gathered at the battlefield in Pennsylvania and the space devoted to the subject on the front page the war’s sesquicentennial is far from the forefront of popular thinking.

Maybe we’ll get it right for the 200th anniversary.

The Civil War raged from 1861 to 1865, and there is little question that it remains the most important event in American history, ending the unconscionable practice of slavery and redefining a collection of 50 states as a single nation, first, foremost and enduring.

But the incompleteness of this transformational event was exposed when the centennial came around, as the historian David Blight illustrated in his 2011 book, “American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.”

It was a time, Blight observed, when Martin Luther King Jr. would stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaim, “One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free” while the Virginia Civil War Commission would declare just as firmly, if less memorably, that “the Centennial is no time for finding fault or placing blame or fighting the issues all over again.”

Today that has changed. When New Hampshire filmmaker Ken Burns presented the history of the war in his acclaimed 1990 public television series, he put slavery at the heart of the story. In his new popular history, “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion,” the historian Allen Guelzo writes not just of the white soldiers engaged in what was a cataclysmic three-day battle, but of the free blacks living in and around Gettysburg who, if they were unfortunate enough to encounter rebel troops, were swept back into slavery.

– Concord (N.H.) Monitor, July 1, 2013

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation states that children spend an average of seven and a half hours each day staring at a screen, whether it’s a television, a computer or some other electronic gadget. That’s up 20 percent from just five years ago.

Meanwhile, over the past decade the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has surged by over 50 percent. And in the last six years that rate has jumped about 15 percent, to 6 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it’s hard to prove a direct correlation between these two trends, experts say the strong parallels between the upswing in diagnoses and an increase of screen time are hard to ignore.

Children and young adults who overdo TV and video games are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a variety of attention span disorders, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics cited by Mobiledia.

Some experts think the growing attachment to our gadgets is part of the solution. “Maybe the kids’ focus on games could be used to draw them out as a way of developing social skills,” said Stephen Shore, author of “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome” and a professor of special education at Adelphi University.

Rather than look at the issue as a problem, Shore believes we need to view it as a challenge. “These games are compelling to the kids, and instead of battling to eliminate them, we could use them to actually develop social skills.”

Then again, there’s something to be said for leaving the gadgets behind every so often, even if just for a little while, so we can slow down a bit, reconnect with friends and family on a more personal level, and rediscover the wonders of our own brain power. Both kids and adults alike would benefit from that downtime.

– Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, July 3, 2013

A new vaccine is proving remarkably effective against certain sexually transmitted infections in teenage girls. Introduced in 2006, the vaccine protects against dangerous strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

A study published June 19 by the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that the vaccine cut infection rates among girls ages 14 to 19 by half. Although only about half the teens were vaccinated, and only a third got the full, three-dose course, the infection rate fell from 7.2 percent in 2006 to 3.6 percent in 2010.

That means thousands fewer will contract cervical cancer in later life, or die from the disease.

Despite encouragement from doctors, some parents have refused to let their daughters be vaccinated. The vaccine is considered most effective if administered before girls become sexually active. Some parents fear, without foundation, that it will encourage promiscuity. Others fear side effects for which there is no scientific evidence.

At about $130 per dose, the vaccine is costly. However, under federal health care reform, insurers will shortly be required to offer it for free.

Ensuring that girls receive this vaccine is vital.

– The Providence (R.I.) Journal, July 5, 2013