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New England editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: October 25, 2014 at 9:15 am

Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover (N.H.), Oct. 22., 2014

President Barack Obama is correct in urging the nation not to give into hysteria over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the cases that have found their way to the United States.

This does not mean, however, we should fail to be concerned and vigilant.

While Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan did die from the disease at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Oct. 8, the incubation period for many he came in contact with has passed. These include family and friends as well as "about a dozen health workers who encountered Duncan when he went to the Dallas hospital for the first time, on Sept. 25," reports The Associated Press.

This is not to ignore the two nurses who treated him, during a second visit on Sept. 28, and who themselves are now being treated. It is to point out the low odds of others becoming infected.

As we see it, much of the hysteria comes from the initial inability of health officials in West Africa to deal with Ebola or recognize its deadly potential.

The World Health Organization, an arm of the United Nations, has admittedly bungled attempts to stop the outbreak in West Africa, blaming incompetent staffing and lack of information.

In this country, the nerves of American's are being rattled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has admitted its earlier shortcomings. According to news reports, the CDC says a rapid-response team should have been deployed to Dallas immediately to help train the staff initially treating Duncan.

None of this is to preclude the possibility of a domestic outbreak or to dampen efforts to prepare for the worst.

It is to resist those who believe the sky is falling.

For example, we are loath to support a ban on travel from West Africa to the United States. Given how interconnected the world is these days, it is an impractical option. Better that we identify the origin of those coming to the United States and set up proper screening procedures on both sides of the Atlantic while working with the appropriate health organizations.

In other words, the battle must be waged from both ends in an orderly fashion.

For that reason, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the "formation of a 30-person military support team to assist civilian medical professionals in the U.S. to treat Ebola," reports the AP.

The team will be comprised of critical care nurses, doctors trained in infectious disease and trainers in infectious disease protocols. The team will undergo specialized training in infection control and personal protective equipment at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, then remain in a domestic "prepare to deploy" status for 30 days.

On Monday the CDC announced a training program to keep health care workers protected from becoming infected and therefore help fight its spread.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Nigeria had gone 42 days without a new case of Ebola due to its quick-response efforts, which it now appears are being emulated elsewhere.

This is not to suggest the threat is over, just that efforts are heading in the right direction.

At least at this point.

This week could prove to be a crucial one for the fight against Ebola. News reports indicated the incubation period for some of those who came in contact with the infect nurses will reach a critical point this week. Our hope is that health officials will soon be able to announce a turning point — one that signals a foreseeable end to the threat of Ebola.

In the meantime, panic and hysteria only distract from the effort.

The Record Journal of Meriden (Conn.), Oct. 22, 2104

Even the most seasoned coaches of youth sports should not think their programs beyond the scourge of hazing. It is important to remain vigilant, so that instances of harassment do not go unnoticed and unstopped.

A much-publicized hazing scandal has enveloped the town of Sayreville, New Jersey this fall. Multiple reports indicate that freshmen on the football team were beaten, groped and sodomized by upperclassmen. This was not the result of a shoddy program under inferior management. According to an Oct. 20 New York Times report, 20-year head coach George Najjir was "old school," did not swear or yell, and told players "he never wanted anyone to embarrass the team, because character meant more than winning." So respected locally was he that misbehaving youths in Pop Warner were cautioned that their actions would be looked upon poorly by Najjir.

And yet even he may have missed — or perhaps tolerated — a history of older players brutally hazing younger teammates. Allegedly, certain acts of sexual assault were common enough in the Sayreville locker room that they had code phrases players would call out as upperclassmen surrounded freshmen. Najjir was not usually with kids after practice, and paid little attention to team matters beyond football. That does not excuse him from accountability. Coaches are responsible for fostering an environment of safety and respect.

Purported acts of hazing in Sayreville are reprehensible and illegal. If allegations prove true, then they reflect either outrageous negligence or inexcusable lapses of judgment on the part of Najjir.

Other coaches can learn from his failure of responsibility. It is one thing to proclaim team character above victory. It is another to ensure that players uphold such values, even when left unsupervised.

Part of establishing such a positive environment is making sure students can comfortably report abusive behavior. Between social media and in-school gossip, Sayreville has suffered a storm of victim-blaming (especially since the scandal likely means a lengthy suspension for the football team). Spitefully, kids have sought out which freshmen reported harassment, rather than expressing anger at perpetrators. This misguided reaction may dissuade youths elsewhere from disclosing abuse. Coaches must instill a sense of trust that they will handle situations discretely and appropriately, so that victims do not face retribution.

Bullying and peer pressure are problems in high schools nationwide. Freshmen may feel too intimidated to speak honestly about harassment, allowing abuse to continue unhindered. Hazing may take place in private areas like locker rooms, equipment facilities or in the woods along running courses. But a coach cannot be everywhere at once. Thus, they should proactively forbid hazing, and not think twice to inspect when situations or rumors suggest something is wrong. Otherwise, coaches turn a blind eye on misconduct that can physically and emotionally scar youths for life, while letting down an entire town that has entrusted someone with the well-being of its kids.

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