Time to take sensible precautions to stop Ebola

My take on the news

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EBOLA PREPAREDNESS: With almost every problem this country faces, our leaders are a day late and a dollar short addressing the problem. It’s happening again with the West African Ebola epidemic that could rapidly become a global pandemic. Our leaders at the state and national levels are taking a dangerously timid approach to what could become the biggest threat our country has ever faced.

The Department of Homeland Security started this week interviewing travelers from West Africa as they arrive at five of our largest airports - those that handle 94 percent of flights with passengers from that part of the world. If an arriving passenger admits he was in contact with an Ebola victim, says he is feeling ill, or if he looks ill, his temperature will be taken. If the reading is high, he will be diverted to the medical system.

There are several things wrong with this timid approach. First, it disregards the 6 percent of West African passengers coming to our country that do not arrive through the five designated airports. Second, since there are no direct flights to the U.S. from West Africa and all travelers from there to the U.S. go through other countries first, will all flights be checked? Unlikely. Third, the new policy doesn’t take into account the virus’s 21-day incubation period; which means someone could travel here from West Africa a week or two after being infected and still show no symptoms as they go through U.S. customs. And finally, the Homeland Security protocol doesn’t address what happens to the other passengers on a flight where a passenger is pulled into quarantine because of Ebola symptoms. What happens to them? Are they quarantined? Are they at least notified?

At the state level, Dr. Michael D. Fine, Director of the Rhode Island Health Department, simply says that should anyone traveling to our state from West Africa become ill, they “should seek medical attention right away.” That’s the strongest protection the rest of our population has after Dr. Fine told us that Rhode Island “is one of the most ready states in the nation” to handle an Ebola case?

Have we allowed “political correctness” to go too far? Are our leaders so afraid to offend West Africans and their U.S. brethren that they are disregarding the danger to our entire population? Is this any different than a reluctant teenager getting into a car with another teen who is too inebriated to drive simply because the thoughtful teen doesn’t want to offend the drunken teen - and they both die?

With the exception of periodic round trip humanitarian relief flights, it’s time to stop all passenger flights into and out of the three West African countries where the Ebola virus is out of control. And flights from any country that doesn’t bar flights from West Africa should be refused entry to the U.S.

Paranoia is defined as fear that is irrational or delusional. This isn’t paranoia. There’s nothing irrational or delusional about recognizing reality, that the Ebola virus could easily spread throughout our country if we don’t take sensible precautions?

JUDGE’S RULING IS EVIDENCE WE NEED CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: U.S. District Judge William E. Smith ruled last week that a Rhode Island law banning anonymous political leaflets violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. The unconstitutional law was used as late as 2013 when Smithfield police arrested a campaign consultant for distributing such flyers.

If ever there was an argument in favor of a Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, this case provides it. For decades our state lawmakers have consistently failed to rescind this unconstitutional law. Delegates to a Constitutional Convention can bring similar changes that have failed because of legislative malfeasance to the voters for amendment at the ballot box.

FUNG WRONG ON “WALL STREET” AND 38 STUDIOS: Allan Fung is skirting danger with his deceptive, intentionally misleading campaign advertising. Characterizing Gina Raimondo as a former “Wall Street financier” who now wants taxpayers to “bail out” her Wall Street cronies who lost money on 38 Studios investments is just plain wrong - and it’s stupid.

Those who support Fung’s political philosophy and think he would be a better governor than Raimondo still want him to address the issues in this campaign with honesty, sincerity, and advertising that points out the clear differences between him and Raimondo.

Mudslinging, name-calling, and issuing ad hominum attacks through clearly specious advertising is not what Rhode Islanders expect of their next governor. More Fung ads that are as deceptive and sophomoric as this one could spell disaster for his campaign.

WARWICK’S THEATRICAL GEM: It’s hiding in plain sight near the south end of Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. The Ocean State Theater’s outward appearance hides the gem that lies inside.

After only 18 months in existence, the theater is approaching the performance level of the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). Indeed, with its intimate 422 seat performance hall where there is no bad seat, the connection between performers and audience far surpasses PPAC’s.

My wife and I visited the theater last week to see My Fair Lady. Having previously seen the musical at PPAC, I was prepared for disappointment. I couldn’t have been more happily surprised! The performance was truly outstanding. Dare I say even better than PPAC’s? Yes! It was better!

Does the theater have a few shortcomings? It does. For example, the intermission foyer could be better decorated. The “industrial chic” look just isn’t a good fit for a performing arts center. The theatrical ambience evoked by the structure should match the superb ambience inspired by the performances.

That doesn’t lower the value of this theatrical gem. With PPAC, the Gamm Theater, Second Story Theater and many other wonderful performing arts venues in Rhode Island, let’s hope residents of our state’s second largest city don’t overlook this newest addition to performance greatness. They shouldn’t, because the Ocean State Theater has put Warwick on a level of theatrical culture that almost equals that of Providence.

ALMONTE BEST CANDIDATE FOR TREASURER: Ernest A. Almonte, the independent candidate for state general treasurer, is by far the best candidate for the job.

As a Democrat, Almonte served very successfully as the Rhode Island Auditor General for six years. He is a Certified Public Accountant, has a master’s degree in taxation, graduated Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and has served on countless state and national accounting and financial boards.

His opponent, Seth Magaziner, who at age 32 counts his major experience as managing $100 million in investments for his investment firm, and who has loaned his campaign over $500,000 from sources he refuses to identify, can’t come remotely close to matching Almonte when it comes to accounting and financial management experience.

As Almonte so aptly says, “this is not an entry level job.”  Our new treasurer has to hit the ground running to make sure the taxpayers’ money is protected, properly accounted for and wisely invested; and he’ll have big shoes to fill - Gina Raimondo’s. It’s an awesome responsibility that calls for experience, not just youthful ambition backed by lots of money.

AIR STRIKES ALONE WON’T STOP ISLAMIC STATE:  After weeks of air strikes against positions held by the terrorists of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the aerial bombings by U.S. and other countries have failed to stop the terrorists from marching into a vital town on the Turkish border, Kobani. The town’s collapse seem imminent.

The town is the strategic link between the terrorist-controlled cities of Aleppo and Raqqa. Control of Kobani would greatly strengthen the terrorists’ ability to establish a “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. Yet, our air strikes seem unable to stop the terrorists.

Although Islamic State terrorists number only in the tens of thousands and they do not have sophisticated weaponry, the fact that they have little opposition on the ground allows them to continue their conquest of portions of Syria and Iraq and their mass slaughter of innocents.

It just goes to show that such terrorist groups cannot be defeated by air strikes alone. There must be a dedicated ground combat force to defeat them - hopefully, one that consists entirely of fighters from Iraq and the other five Arab countries that are now supporting the air strikes. Without a ground combat force, President Obama’s air strikes are doing little beyond giving the terrorists more incentive to behead captives.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  WPRO talk show host Dan Yorke, reading from an email message sent by a Providence woman regarding the ongoing mayoral election, “A woman walks into a restaurant and there are only two items on the menu - rehashed turkey and milquetoast.  Let’s not kid ourselves that we have a real choice in this election.”

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