Commonplace
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Publick Occurrences 2.0

July 29, 2010

Highway to Corrugated Metal Heaven

Filed under: Travel — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 5:22 pm

[This is me experimenting with the WordPress app on my new phone.] From before the beginning, this has been the most and least progressive country on the planet. America kept up the witch-hunting after western Europe gave it up but also created the first national republic, launched a revolution and wrote new constitutions because the British Constitution was not ancient enough for them, and so on. Driving home on I-70 (a.k.a. the National Road) today, we saw some good examples of the way these contradictions continue to develop. Here are a couple of illustrations from the exit town of Effingham, Illinois, where one finds both what is probably the country’s most stylish, progressive roadside restaurant and the World’s Largest Cross, constructed oh-so-majestically out of giant sheets of corrugated metal:

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July 27, 2010

Florid Sentiments in Public Places : Turn that border control frown upside down

Filed under: Historic sites,Travel — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 9:07 am

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I am a sucker for old school public art where they try to express some local civic value by putting up a sort of giant greeting card. Anyone recognize this one?

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July 23, 2010

Modern Franklin Gets the Boot [UPDATED]

Filed under: Founders,Printing History,science — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 11:52 am

Outbreaks of popular resistance against expert medical advice are a long Anglo-American tradition, and preventative measures like inoculation and vaccination have been recurring targets for us freemen. It will always be a little counter-intuitive to expose a healthy person to potentially harmful substances to keep them from getting a disease they don’t seem to have. It seemed even worse in the case of early inoculation, which involved giving someone a disease like smallpox on purpose in hopes they would get it in a less virulent form and develop some immunity.  Sometimes the patient  just got sick and died of the “cure.”

One of the most famous populist crusades against the modern medicine of its time was in 1721 when young Ben Franklin and his older brother James went after the smallpox inoculation policy favored by colonial Boston’s ministerial elite. The Massachusetts Historical Society has an excellent online presentation about the controversy, including images of Ben’s pseudonymous essays from the New England Courant. (Historians help me with some less well-known examples).

But historical context only goes so far, and just because some Founder did it, does not necessarily make it right in every case. So quite likely Dr. Andrew Wakefield really did need to be drummed out of the medical profession [original link to AP story no longer works]:

LONDON — The doctor whose research linking autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella influenced millions of parents to refuse the shot for their children was banned Monday from practicing medicine in his native Britain.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study was discredited — but vaccination rates have never fully recovered and he continues to enjoy a vocal following, helped in the U.S. by endorsements from celebrities like Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy

Wakefield was the first researcher to publish a peer-reviewed study suggesting a connection between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Legions of parents abandoned the vaccine, leading to a resurgence of measles in Western countries where it had been mostly stamped out. There are outbreaks across Europe every year and sporadic outbreaks in the U.S.

“That is Andrew Wakefield’s legacy,” said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The hospitalizations and deaths of children from measles who could have easily avoided the disease.”

Wakefield’s discredited theories had a tremendous impact in the U.S., Offit said, adding: “He gave heft to the notion that vaccines in general cause autism.”

In Britain, Wakefield’s research led to a huge decline in the number of children receiving the MMR vaccine: from 95 percent in 1995 — enough to prevent measles outbreaks — to 50 percent in parts of London in the early 2000s. Rates have begun to recover, though not enough to prevent outbreaks. In 2006, a 13-year-old boy became the first person to die from measles in Britain in 14 years.

“The false suggestion of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine has done untold damage to the UK vaccination program,” said Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. “Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that it is safe.”

Unfortunately, even when the British totally discredit you, there is always Texas, as Brian Deer of the London Times explains.

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