Short Takes on Mythical Measles and Crowd Sizes

By Daily Editorials

February 25, 2019 6 min read

Cheers for Dirty Hands and Measles?

Weekend "Fox & Friends" host Pete Hegseth shocked even his own colleagues by declaring on-air that he hasn't washed his hands in 10 years because he doesn't believe germs are real. "Germs are not a real thing. I can't see them; therefore, they're not real. ... Really, I don't really wash my hands ever," the Princeton and Harvard graduate said. He later insisted he was joking and poking fun at germophobes. Some viewers took him seriously.

Then there's Darla Shine, wife of White House communications deputy chief Bill Shine, who absolutely, 100 percent seriously tweeted that there's nothing to worry about regarding the recent measles outbreak in Washington state and Oregon. "Bring back our #ChildhoodDisease they keep you healthy & fight cancer," she tweeted, suggesting that people avoid vaccinating their children.

For the record: Measles outbreaks can be deadly. Vaccines prevent disease. There's no evidence whatsoever that measles fights cancer. And joking aside, it's best to wash your hands a lot more than once every 10 years.

Size Really Matters to POTUS

President Donald Trump's obsession with size is not serving him well. The El Paso, Texas, fire department had to knock down his claim that 10,000 people attended his rally Monday night. Try 6,500, the capacity for the arena where Trump spoke.

Trump was obviously competing with Beto O'Rourke's counter-rally the same day, which estimates suggest was up to 15,000.

Trump has a penchant for wildly overestimating crowd sizes, dating back to the embarrassing falsehood put out by the White House about attendance at Trump's inauguration. National Park Service photographic evidence clearly disputed the claim that it was anywhere close to a record crowd.

Mission Accomplished

Call it The Little Rover That Could. The Mars rover Opportunity was dispatched to the red planet in 2004 for what was to be a 90-day exploratory mission. This week — 15 years later — NASA formally declared its solar-powered explorer dead, wrapping up one of the space agency's biggest success stories.

The rover was supposed to look for signs of past water on Mars. It accomplished that mission, suggesting that Mars might once have supported life. The rover's amazing longevity, through which it continued sending data for years beyond what scientists had expected, has been attributed to a lot of factors, including no small bit of luck, given the planet's propensity for dust storms. What scientists didn't predict was that windstorms would repeatedly blast the rover's solar panels clean, allowing it to recharge. Like the Energizer Bunny, it just kept going and going.

Back to Nature

From the Pleasant Surprise Department comes a measure to permanently protect millions of acres of land that's moving through Congress with strong bipartisan support and a likely presidential signature.

This unusual gift to the environment at a time when too many politicians are willing to sacrifice it is the result of old-fashioned earmarking and political back-scratching, but the result this time is the right one.

Described as the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, the measure would permanently withdraw 370,000 acres of land near national parks from mining, establish four new national monuments and protect hundreds of miles of rivers and 1.3 million acres of wilderness areas.

This is a win for nature, and for America.

Fighting for the Right to Speak

Donald Trump's presidential campaign recently filed an arbitration claim against a former staffer for writing a tell-all book after the staffer had signed a nondisclosure agreement. Now the staffer is suing back, claiming this shady practice from the business world is being used by a president to impede the First Amendment rights of an American citizen. And so it is.

The book, "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House" by Ex-White House communications aide Cliff Sims, has clearly set off Trump, who has been known to make employees sign nondisclosure agreements in both his business and political organizations. Trump's campaign claims in its filing not that Sims' book contains lies, but that he's not allowed to tell even the truth.

Sims' countersuit argues that Trump's organization is attempting to intimidate him out of his First Amendment rights — which pretty much sums up the whole purpose of nondisclosure agreements. They generally don't stand up in court anyway, but that's not the point: This president routinely tries to silence his critics with legal threats. Here's hoping a court finally slaps this practice down, hard.

Polar Bear Invasion

Anyone who still doesn't believe the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming at alarming rates, try telling that to the terrified residents of Novaya Zemlya, a group of Russian islands in the Arctic Ocean that is being overrun by polar bears.

The bears, refugees from the global climate-change crisis, normally live and hunt on nearby sea ice, but that ice is thinning and breaking, driving the hungry bears to land. More than 50 polar bears have descended on human settlements recently, rummaging through garbage and scaring residents.

Polar bears are protected from being hunted due to threats the species already faces from global warming. The tragic irony is that Russian officials are now considering making an exception to that ban to allow killing bears that appear in populated areas.

Added to that is the specter of bears starving by the thousands because they can't hunt seals in their normal sea-ice hunting grounds. This is what the latest victims of human-caused climate change look like.

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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