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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 12

State needs to fix Lincoln Hills problem

Lincoln Hills is the state's problem, and the state needs to fix it. Specifically, that not only means making sure the youth prison facility in northern Wisconsin is safe for inmates, it also means providing resources and programming in the Milwaukee area for youths from the region. Continuing to send those kids to Lincoln Hills in the face of what's happened there and the ongoing investigation is no longer acceptable.

The Journal Sentinel's Ashley Luthern reported Tuesday that Milwaukee County teens are still being sentenced to Lincoln Hills at roughly the same rate as before allegations of assault, abuse and intimidation became public. That has local officials concerned, and rightly so.

"We are still sending kids to Lincoln Hills, unfortunately, because it's our only option," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Swanson said Monday at a panel discussion at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "That's our only juvenile facility in the state for corrections. The problem is now we're sending them knowing that the services are completely inadequate."

"We know sending kids up there, it's a recipe for failure," Swanson also said. "We look at the options available locally and we just don't have enough. We really need residential programming here in the county."

And Milwaukee Police Chief said, "The state doesn't get to throw rocks at us and defund facilities for juvenile offenders and defund re-entry services and release people from prison without sufficient resources and underinvest in the district attorney's office," without consequences, Flynn said.

But that's just what the state has been doing even as officials were losing control over Lincoln Hills. That has to change.

Federal officials have launched a massive investigation of possible civil rights violations and abuse allegations at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and its sister institution, Copper Lake School for Girls, which share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau. Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials have said they've instituted multiple changes at Lincoln Hills to safeguard juveniles after problems there became known.

But local political and judicial leaders are still worried, and they fear that state lawmakers will wash their hands of the problem and kick it down the road without funding, as Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has said.

In addition to the problems at the facility, the simple fact is that Lincoln Hills is too far from Milwaukee. Many families of the Milwaukee youths incarcerated there don't have easy ways to get there. And family support can play a key role in rehabilitating youths.

The state created this mess, first by consolidating youth facilities in northern Wisconsin and second by allowing a situation to develop that resulted in the federal investigation. It now needs to fix it.


The Capital Times, April 13

State's superdelegates should respect the will of Democratic primary voters

There should be no "superdelegates" in a party that describes itself as "Democratic." The process of nominating a candidate for the presidency should not be left vulnerable to the whims of national convention delegates who are not chosen by the great mass of primary and caucus voters, and who could actually deliver the nomination of the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Obama to a candidate who lost the race for pledged delegates.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party does allow for the warping of its nominating process by unelected and unaccountable superdelegates. And that should be a serious concern for Wisconsin Democrats.

On April 5, in Wisconsin's open primary, more than 1 million voters cast Democratic ballots. They were overwhelmingly supportive of Vermont Sen. , who earned 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for former Secretary of State .

Sanders won 71 of 72 counties, sweeping college towns and factory towns, suburbs and the state's most rural regions. In Menominee County, where Native Americans make up the vast majority of the population, Sanders beat Clinton 63 percent to 36 percent. In Dane County, where the votes of college students are a huge factor, Sanders prevailed with 63 percent. In the countryside of Vernon County, Sanders took 64 percent. Even in Milwaukee County, where Clinton had been expected to have her strongest showing, Sanders won more than 48 percent of the vote.

It was a resounding victory for the insurgent candidate who spoke of his reverence for the Wisconsin progressive tradition of Robert M. La Follette and who promised that "a Sanders administration ... would be pretty much the exact opposite of a administration."

Wisconsin sent a message about its desires regarding the direction of the Democratic Party and the nation.

And we hope that message will be delivered at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

But for that to happen, Wisconsin's superdelegates must represent Wisconsin — not their own whims or the dictates of party leaders in Washington.

Wisconsin will send 96 delegates to Philadelphia. Based on the will of the voters in the primary, 48 of them will be pledged to Sanders and 38 to Clinton.

But 10 delegates from Wisconsin will go to the convention as unpledged delegates who can vote as they choose. These so-called "superdelegates" are elected officials and party leaders who could, if they were to unite behind Clinton, effectively blunt the results of the Wisconsin primary — taking a state that voted 57-43 for one candidate and making its convention vote an even split.

That sort of anti-democratic approach might be acceptable in some states, but it is entirely unacceptable for Wisconsin, the state that created and has historically defended the open primary.

What to do?

We like the approach of Congressman , D-Minn. Peterson is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. A founder of the so-called "Blue Dog Caucus," which frequently veers to the right of party leaders, he's closer to Clinton than to Sanders on a number of issues. But when the Democrats in his western Minnesota district caucused, they gave Sanders 63 percent of their votes while Clinton won 37 percent.

As a Democratic member of the House, Peterson is automatically a superdelegate. He could cast his vote for Clinton or Sanders. But he announced after the caucuses: "I'm voting my district. I'm going to vote for Bernie."

Indeed, though Peterson does not always attend national conventions, he said, "If my vote makes a difference, I'll probably go" and cast it for Sanders.

Why? "He's got something going," Peterson said of the democratic socialist senator from Vermont who has proven to be very popular in the upper Midwest. "He's tapped into something."

The standard that Peterson has set is a good one, and Wisconsin superdelegates should follow it.

Statewide officials and party leaders who are headed to the Democratic National Convention should work to see that, in line with Wisconsin's vote, Sanders gets at least six of the 10 superdelegate votes. And members of the House should, of course, vote their districts.

We respect that some superdelegates might prefer a candidate who did not win the state or their district. They have options. They could announce that, despite their personal preferences, they will respect Wisconsin's open-primary tradition and cast convention votes in accordance with the sentiments of primary voters at the statewide or district level. Or they could relinquish their status as superdelegates and seek to attend the convention as pledged delegates for their preferred candidates.

What they should not do is dismiss the will of the 1,003,904 Wisconsin voters who cast their ballots in the Democratic primary on April 5. To do so would insult the unique and precious democratic traditions of the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin party traces its roots to progressive reformers like Gaylord Nelson, Robert Kastenmeier, Frank Nikolay, Lloyd Barbee and Vel Phillips, who often challenged the national party to set higher standards on issues ranging from civil rights to war and peace. They wanted a bold, progressive Democratic Party that reflected the ideals of grass-roots democrats and the results of elections. Wisconsin's Democratic superdelegates can and should do the same in 2016.


The Journal Times of Racine, April 11

Keep your unvaccinated child away from ours

Which is worse: Outright ignorance, or someone who claims to know more than experts in the field?

When it comes to vaccinating children, we find the self-proclaimed experts more offensive.

Measles had been declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, but it's made a comeback, most prominently in California: in 2014 in San Diego County, at Disneyland in Anaheim in 2015 and this year northeast of Sacramento.

Yuba River Charter School in Nevada County, California, was closed on March 29, extending its spring break by a day, after reports that an unvaccinated student came to school infected with measles before the break, CBS Sacramento reported.

The school planned to reopen March 30, but only for students who have been vaccinated. School officials were to check records before students go inside. Students who have not been vaccinated were not to be allowed back until at least April 8.

According to school records, there were 225 students at school on the day of the exposure, and 124 of them do not have vaccinations. Last year, vaccination rates came in at 43 percent.

Gina Herbert and her daughter showed up for school on March 30 only to find the doors closed. "I'm not really interested in vaccinating her, though, because I'm more concerned with problems that could cause her harm," she said.

The article makes no mention of Ms. Herbert having a background in immunology, or a medical degree of any kind.

Many parents refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe vaccinations are linked to autism, despite decades of medical research that has found no evidence of a connection.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: What your friend tells you, or some article that turned up in your Google search, is no substitute for the advice of a pediatrician.

The pediatrician went through four years of medical school, a one-year internship, a residency of between two and four years and a fellowship for specialists before entering an examination room with you and your child. If you have no medical training, why are you substituting your judgment for the physician's?

Let us play one of our biggest hits for you now: Amid the 2014 outbreak of dangerous anti-vaccination nonsense, a group of researchers decided to conduct a systematic review of all the controlled studies on vaccines in the scientific literature, Vox.com reported on July 1 of that year. Their conclusion, once and for all: vaccines are safe and effective.

The RAND Corp. researchers combed through databases of scientific literature for vaccine-related studies, turning up 20,478 in total. This included studies of childhood vaccines — such as DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, meningococcal, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and varicella — as well as adult vaccines such as flu shots.

They found that the vaccines commonly administered to both kids and adults in the U.S. are all safe and effective. Crucially, there was absolutely no link between childhood vaccines and autism spectrum disorders. In other words, kids who didn't get the MMR vaccine (most frequently, and incorrectly, claimed to cause autism) were diagnosed with autism at the exact same rates as children who did get the vaccine, Vox.com reported.

Here's something else your ill-informed friend or cursory Internet search won't tell you about: Herd immunity.

When a community's vaccination rate drops below 95 percent, that community loses what is called herd immunity, which increases the risk of infection in its most vulnerable. Infants are too young to be vaccinated, but they're not too young to contract — and are especially vulnerable to — whooping cough. Ten infants died in a California whooping cough outbreak in 2010.

Herd immunity is especially important in public schools, which are required by law to accept every child, but thankfully can bar unimmunized children from attending.

Of course we want all children to be educated, but we cannot have children who have not been immunized coming in contact with so many other children. Putting all of those children in the enclosed setting of a public school endangers all of them. Endangers the herd.

If you want your unvaccinated child to be educated, you should find a private school with less stringent immunization policies, or home-school your child. Keep your child away from ours until you're ready to yield to what most of us were taught in high school biology.

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