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Health benefit denied PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 18:23

Shortsighted cost saving combined with shaky assumptions, fuzzy math and a whiff of conspiracy theory will deprive Village of Saukville residents of a significant health benefit.

The Saukville Village Board voted two weeks ago to end the long-standing service of adding fluoride to the municipal water supply.

Trustees based the decision mainly on avoiding the cost of providing fluoridation equipment for a new village water well, but because of it village residents will be less able to avoid increased financial and physical dental-health costs.

The decision takes away from Saukville residents a proven aid to health that is provided by 75% of the nation’s municipal water utilities. In a definitive report on fluoridation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control summarizes decades of findings by dental health authorities and panels of scientists: 

“For children younger than age 8, fluoride helps strengthen the permanent teeth that are developing under the gums. For adults, drinking water with fluoride supports tooth enamel, keeping teeth strong and healthy.”

In recommending a stop to fluoridation, the village Utility Committee cited an odd statistic suggesting that people drink only 4% of Saukville’s municipal water. Water used for drinking isn’t metered, of course, so that would be a guess. Saukville residents no doubt drink about the same percentage of the municipal water supply as people in any community, and whether that number is 4% or 40% is irrelevant. Some of the village supply is consumed by humans and is therefore an effective medium to deliver the dental health benefits of fluoride.

Officials said the decision was supported as well by assumptions that residents will get an ample amount of dental health benefit from fluoride found naturally in Saukville’s water and from toothpastes that contain the compound. The American Dental Association, which since 1950 has endorsed fluoridation as “safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay,” disagrees.

Also discussed in the consideration of discontinuing fluoride treatment were complaints from a few residents based on discredited fears of the dangers said to be lurking in drinking water with added fluoride. 

According to Saukville Water Supt. Dale Kropidlowski, the village has received calls from people claiming fluoridated water impairs thyroid function, lowers the IQs of young children and increases the risk of bone cancer in boys.

Fluoridation has been wrongly blamed for many ills of the body, including Down syndrome and heart disease, and even for some ills of society. Conspiracy theorists have raved that the government has been covering up the health menace of fluoridation and those of the more crackpot variety have gone so far as to claim that putting fluoride in public water supplies is a government plot to somehow subvert American values.

In the words of the CDC, scientific investigations “have found no convincing link between water fluoridation and any adverse health effect.” The government agency, in fact, lists fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements in the past 70 years.

There’s a fair amount of science denial going around these days, but it should not be allowed to have any influence on a decision concerning a health benefit as valuable as fluoridated water.

Fluoridation has been studied so thoroughly that a veritable mountain of data about it has been accumulated, including a study that determined that each dollar spent on fluoridation saves at least $38 in dental treatment costs.

Saukville residents are about to lose that savings along with an effective aid to dental health. Even allowing for the few pennies on a water bill that might be saved by not installing fluoridation equipment for the new well, that doesn’t sound like a very good deal. 

Taking away a health service from which Saukville residents have benefitted for many years can only be characterized as a backward turn. That is not the direction an otherwise progressive community like Saukville should be going.

There is still time for the Village Board to reverse this bad decision.

PC police shoot an air ball PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 15:09

Sometimes a bad word can have a good effect.

That was one result of a 16-year-old Wisconsin girl’s use of a scatological term in a comment she posted on Twitter. The effect of the comment was to expose an attempt by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to impose mindless rules of political correctness on state high school students. 

Another result was not so good—the girl, April Gehl, a star athlete at Hilbert High School, was suspended from the basketball team for using the profanity. 

Nevertheless, her punishment is what drew attention to the WIAA’s bizarre call, in an email to Wisconsin schools, to crack down on students who voice mildly mocking chants at basketball games.

The email admonished schools to “take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.” Examples of such behavior cited by the WIAA included chants of “air ball,” “there’s a net there” and “scoreboard.” 

Excuse us, but. . . air ball? Unsporting?

When Ms. Gehl responded to this nonsense with a three-word tweet that included the naughty word, the post was read by more than 1,200 Twitter followers, including someone at the WIAA. April’s mother was quoted in news stories as saying an official of the organization sent a photo of the tweet to Hilbert High School’s athletic director with instructions to “take care of it.” He did. April, the top scorer and rebounder on the Hilbert team, was barred from playing in five games.

The harsh suspension got national exposure, and criticism and ridicule rained down on the WIAA from such sources as Sports Illustrated, USA Today and ESPN. Some Wisconsin legislators were so disturbed, and apparently embarrassed for their state, by the WIAA’s attempt to act as the PC police that they introduced a bill prohibiting school districts from joining the association unless the association agrees to be governed by the state’s public records and open meetings laws. The bill was passed by the Assembly, and was awaiting Senate approval when the Legislature adjourned.

The WIAA, though a non-profit organization, has highly paid executives and until last year was supported in large part by membership dues paid with tax dollars by public school districts. It wields considerable power in regulating high school athletics, but it has no business trying to regulate the exuberance of students who in support of their teams poke good-natured fun at opponents on gym floors and playing fields with chants and cheers.

The scathing reaction to the WIAA’s directive was well deserved and also refreshing in that it scored some points against the political correctness mentality that has recently found followers in education circles, particularly American college campuses and classrooms.

The notion that students need to feel “safe” from controversial ideas, even those expressed in history and literature, that are said to be a “trigger” to making students fearful has led to professors and administrators being accused of racism, sexism and gender bias, among other sins, and speakers being barred from school events. 

Colleges and universities are places where the discussion of ideas should never be limited to those considered “safe.” One wonders what students who fear controversial subjects expect they will face in the real world after college.

As tender as the sensibilities of these students must be, it’s hard to imagine that even they would be offended by a chant of “air ball.”

The unspoken issue PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 18:48

The Republican presidential debates, heavy on personal insults, including uncouth claims about the size of certain body parts, and light on serious discussion of important issues, have been described as entertaining—in the way farcical plays, gross-out movies and train wrecks are entertaining—but of little value to voters.

That perception was reinforced at the debate in Milwaukee last week. But this time it was the fault of the news organization running the event, more than the performers. 

CNN might as well have announced that the event, billed as a town hall meeting, was not to be taken seriously when it refused to allow questions submitted by a West Allis man to be asked of the candidates.

One of the questions was, “If you become commander-in-chief, how will you approach the decision to go to war and will you spend the blood of our soldiers only as a last resort?”

CNN had encouraged John Witmer to submit questions, then rejected them because he would not commit to voting for one of the Republican candidates in  the Wisconsin primary as apparently required by the rules of the event.

This in spite of Witmer’s undisputed, though tragic, standing to ask presidential candidates of any party questions about the use of the military: His daughter Michelle was this country’s first female National Guard member killed in combat.

Witmer’s questions can now be added to others of surpassing importance to the presidency, the country and the world that have been ignored by Republican candidates and not pursued aggressively enough by their questioners. At the top of that list are any that deal with global warming.

The Republican candidates dismiss global warming as a non-issue. Ted Cruz calls it a “pseudoscientific theory.” John Kasich says if it exists it’s not caused by humans. Donald Trump claims it’s a “hoax.” (Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said it’s a threat to the American people and the world that government must deal with, but neither has given the issue the attention it deserves.)

About the time the candidates were taking to their podiums for their Milwaukee performance, a new and shocking scientific study predicting catastrophic flooding that could lead to destruction and abandonment of American coastal cities before the end of the century was being published.

Deniers of global warming, of which there are quite a few in political circles but almost none in the world of science, have been able to skate by because the full impact of overheating the planet was projected to be an existential threat only in the rather distant future.

The study published in the journal Nature last week brought the prospect of global warming calamity back from the future and so close to the present that people alive today could experience it.

The study found that global warming at its current pace could unleash the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet within decades and cause oceans to rise by more than six feet by 2100.

Dr. Benjamin Strauss, one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of sea levels, said, “There would really be an unthinkable level of sea rise. It would erase many major cities and some nations from the map.” He added that if emissions of manmade greenhouse gases are not substantially reduced, the next century will be “the century of hell.”

Barring some sort of coup at the Republican convention, one of the five people who are currently candidates will be the next president of the U.S. Three of those candidates reject the worldwide scientific consensus that predicts a cataclysm that will likely kill more people than all the world’s terrorists combined and take more from economies than all of the world’s wars combined if carbon emissions aren’t curtailed. 

Perish the thought that something like that would be the subject of a presidential debate.

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