04-06-2017 Letters and Commentary

NO FAKE NEWS HERE… Not infrequently, someone will comment to me, “Here’s some news to fill up space in your paper.”

Invariably I reply I never have empty space in the paper. The opposite is true… there is always more news than I (we) have space to fit. The tough choice is what is printed and what gets held out for print the next issue.

If anything “kills” a news item, it is incomplete or erroneous information. Occasionally folks copy a story from another source and forward it to us. Others send in copy that needs verification and we can’t verify its accuracy or veracity. I coined a phrase, 40 years ago while checking reporters’ copy, “when in doubt, leave it out.”

The news copy that gets the publishing approval, first and foremost, is the copy generated by our own reporters. They are writing about events they witnessed or interviewing people who have first hand (and reliable) information that needs to be published.

While there is a lot of discussion in the media about so-called fake news, I’m pleased to report there has been none of that here. The Record has reliable reporters that generate 90% of the news copy on these pages. The rest is provided by reliable public relations and press office professionals who are held to high standards of objectivity, integrity, and accuracy.

In the rare occurrence when a writer deliberately misinforms the public and media, they are soon unemployed. In the rare time there is misinformation or a genuine error published, the professional media immediately takes steps to make the correction.

I’m proud the Record has a great history of integrity and objectivity. When that pesky gremlin causes the typo or error, I’m the first one to point it out and make amends.

My other editing guideline, mistakes can happen but only once.

What’s sadly lacking in much of the “social media news” is any responsibly or control over the irresponsible dissemination of obvious salacious gossip and the deliberate manufacturing of false news to incite controversy and gain attention.

Creating another category of demented, immoral, and hateful news is those bent of venting hurtful comment on (former) friends and family. It is hard to imagine any sort of reconciliation following a spiteful comment made by some person spewing filthy and hateful words fueled by anger, pain, drugs, alcohol, or insanity.

SORRY FOR THE SNOW… In a spurt of spring fever frenzy, Sunday, I got the lawn tractor out and put the snow thrower away. I also picked up yard trash and other winter debris… In the back of my mind, I was dreaming of a warm Thursday when I might call my fishing buddy Bob and hit Paw Paw Lake for some spring bass.

When I collapsed in my recliner, later, I caught a local weather forecast that promised a rainy week with some sleet and snow on Thursday. I should have known.

Each occasional balmy day the last half of March, I began getting my boat ready for spring fishing. Each following day seemed a relapse to winter. I hope this is the end of it. Channel 22 weather is promising 70 degrees and sunshine Sunday. I think I have a plan for that afternoon.

Meanwhile the torrential down pours occurring over the past few weeks have accounted for soggy yards and fields. The National Weather service maintains a flood measuring station on the Paw Paw River at Riverside. The most recent graph shows near flood levels of water at 9.38 feet on March 31. According to their calculations, the flood level is at 11 feet. I have my own flood level meter at the Papermill Monument near Hays Park in Watervliet. When water “puddles” in the old millpond (now just a low spot behind the monument) I know the river is rising. When the water forms a “lake” that extends from the river to the monument, the river is near flood. When the water floods the entire old millpond and spills over to the ball fields in Hays Park, the river is at flood.

Back to the official records for the river at Riverside… The recent high 11.24 feet occurred on September 18, 2008. That was probably the time Hays Park was nearly completely underwater and I got pictures of kayakers paddling across the ball fields. The recent low water record 3.53 feet on September 8, 2000. July 5, 1964 is also listed at 2.66 feet that must have been one dry summer.

As of Tuesday morning, following the heavy rains overnight, the slowly falling water levels in the river measured at the Riverside meter, began to rise slightly above 9 feet.

Social Security in plain language – it feels good to be understood

Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey. As in any relationship, communication is key to forging strong connections and fostering understanding. At Social Security, the way we communicate with you is important to us. We keep this in mind when we write each publication, blog entry, frequently asked question (FAQ), and press release.

The Center for Plain Language has issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card. The annual report grades federal agencies on how well they communicate with the public. Social Security scored a B plus! We’re proud of that grade, but we won’t stop trying to improve it.

There’s only so much time in the day and we know you have a full “to do” list. We know you don’t have time to read confusing government paperwork filled with jargon that requires dictionaries and internet searches to understand. You want to process what you read immediately and without the help of a thesaurus. We get you.

That’s why our website is easy to access, convenient to navigate, and secure to use. Our FAQs at www.socialsecurity.gov/faq and publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs contain clear, accurate information that is easy to understand. Some publications are available in up to 17 languages, and they’re written in the same clear, concise way as our English publications.

Nothing is more important to our agency than meeting the needs of those we serve. Social Security looks forward to continuing to secure today and tomorrow for you and your family.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Empty caves

Historians explain that mangers in Jesus’ time were often caves that accommodated animals for shelter. Bethlehem’s manger that protected Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that first Christmas night may have been such a cave. We know that the tomb in which Jesus’ body was laid after crucifixion, and from which He arose that first Easter morning, was a cave cut out of rock and furnished with places to lay the dead to rest. Interesting.

There are other mentions of caves in the Bible as well. Elijah hid in a cave, cowering from Jezebel’s threats against his life (1 Kings 19). During that cave experience Elijah met God in a surprising new way. Standing at the cave’s opening, Elijah watched violent storm, fire and earthquake, ways he had seen God’s power in the past. He discovered that God was not in any of these this time. Then he heard a “gentle blowing” and a quiet voice speaking to him. It was God encountering, teaching and encouraging Elijah, revealing to him His presence. His work was not done. God engaged Elijah in conversation, giving him a new commission and renewed purpose.

At the cave in Bethlehem God also engages us in new conversation, showing us His presence in new ways, demonstrating that with Him we can still have a future hope as promised in the familiar John 3:16.

But not until the empty cave after Golgotha could our hope for eternal life be secured. Now we can know His presence forever. Jesus’ resurrection means we too can rise to new life with sins forgiven.

Elijah accepted God’s invitation to leave the cave and proceed with life. God gives us invitation to new life and purpose as well because Jesus left the cave for each of us, having fulfilled His purpose in coming – our redemption. That empty cave is for each of us.

Gerrymandering kills democracy

Dear Editor,

According to CountMIVote, a group of Michigan citizens working for non-partisan redistricting reform, “Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating political district boundaries to benefit a particular political party. Elected officials redraw district lines every decade, and the party in power can use the opportunity to move boundaries to minimize opponents’ votes and increase their odds of staying in power.”

For example, in the 2014 midterm election, Michigan voters cast 30,000 more ballots for Democrats <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/07/1342751/-Michigan-Dems-Got-More-Votes-and-Still-Lost> than Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives races. Despite that, Republicans won, and continue to hold, a 63-47 advantage.

In the 2016 election, 48.3% of the votes cast for the U.S. House Representatives were for Republicans and 46.6% for Democrats in the State of Michigan.  5% voted for third party candidates.  Of the 14 individuals elected, 9 were Republicans, 5 were Democrats, and 0 Independents.  In this case, fewer than 50% of votes makes up 64.3% of the Michigan congressional delegation.

I recently attended an educational event sponsored by two non-partisan organizations, Voters Not Politicians and CountMIVote.  They shared information on the history of gerrymandering across the country in general, and in Michigan, to show the need for redistricting reform.

“Gerrymandering often results in oddly shaped districts, where cities, townships and even neighborhoods are split and sliced apart.  Two primary tactics for gerrymandering are “cracking” and “packing.” Cracking refers to drawing lines such that similar voters are split into multiple districts, thereby limiting their collective power. Packing is the opposite, when lines are drawn to keep voters of a particular bent in a single district, to limit their influence in other districts.”

Gerrymandering affects not only the outcome of elections, but this practice lessens the motivation for compromise.  With elections being decided even before candidates are selected, there is no motivation for elected officials to work with their constituents or other Congressman who may have different points of view.  To accomplish the goal of politically safe districts, communities are divided.  One example is the city of Lansing which is divided into three districts – the citizens of Lansing are not able to voice their concerns as a united community because they are divided between the three separate districts.

Redistricting Reform is the right thing to do for all of the people of Michigan.  “Voters Not Politicians” is a non-partisan group that will begin circulating petitions this summer in support of a State Constitutional Amendment that will establish a non-partisan approach to redistricting which benefits all Michiganders.  I encourage the people of Michigan to learn more about this topic and support the upcoming State Constitutional Amendment.  http://www.votersnotpoliticians.com/about.

Peggy Getty, St. Joseph

Lakeland celebrates lives saved through organ donation

 Currently, over 3,500 men, women, and children in Michigan, and 119,000 nationwide, are awaiting lifesaving organ transplants. According to Gift of Life Michigan, on average, 17 Michigan residents have organ transplants every week. During National Donate Life Month (NDLM), Lakeland Health encourages community members to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors and celebrates those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

“Through organ donation, one person can save up to eight lives while a single tissue donor can help up to 50 additional people in need,” said Maureen Bishop, RN, Clinical Nurse Specialist. “People of all ages and medical histories can become donors.”

In fact, last year more than 33,600 transplants brought renewed life to patients and their families and communities. In 2016, 11 organs were recovered at Lakeland facilities and successfully transplanted. In addition, a total of 26 cornea donors provided the gift of sight to those in need.

To become an organ donor, visit any local Secretary of State office or www.lakelandhealth.org/donatelife. You can also show your support for organ donation by purchasing a “Donate Life” Michigan license plate; proceeds from the purchase of this plate help support organ donation awareness.

Importance of vaccination highlighted as Michigan confirms first measles case of 2017

 The Michigan Department of Health and Human services has confirmed Michigan’s first measles case of 2017 in southeast Michigan. The individual was hospitalized, and is currently recovering. The case is related to exposure during international travel and underscores the importance of following all vaccine recommendations.

Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with the MDHHS. If you have questions about a child’s vaccination status or your own vaccination history, talk to your doctor right away to ensure your family has optimal protection.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable respiratory infection that can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. The illness initially presents with a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, photophobia, and is followed by a red, raised body rash starting on the head and face that then progresses to the rest of the body. Individuals may be contagious for a few days before they present with symptoms, which increases the potential of exposing others to the infection.

Because measles is highly communicable, vaccination is the best line of defense, and successful prevention and control requires high levels of immunity in all communities. MDHHS continues to coordinate with local health departments in southeast Michigan to monitor any potential secondary cases in individuals who may have been exposed to the initial case. Individuals known to have been potentially exposed while the patient was receiving treatment are being contacted for follow up.

Last year, Michigan confirmed one case of measles. From 2001 through 2012, the average number of measles cases reported nationally per year was about 60. But in recent years there have been more, which is of great concern to public health authorities. In 2014, there were 667 cases in the U.S. including five cases in Michigan; the majority of people who got measles were not vaccinated.

The measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe. Adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of the vaccine. The first of two routine childhood measles vaccine doses is given at 12 months of age. For international travel, infants as young as 6 months should be vaccinated against measles. The vaccination, or documentation of immunity to measles, is recommended for all persons travelling internationally.

In an effort to help parents protect their children from serious vaccine-preventable diseases, MDHHS recently joined the Fanny Strong Foundation to launch the I Vaccinate campaign. I Vaccinate provides the facts parents need to make informed decisions about vaccinations. For more information about immunizations and the I Vaccinate campaign, visit www.ivaccinate.org.


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