Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Decatur Daily on vaccine technology:
In many ways, human brains are hardwired for pessimism. It’s a handy defense mechanism that helps us avoid dangerous situations, but it can also blind us to all the ways in which our lives are improving.
The COVID pandemic has brought about a large bout of pessimism, and with good reason. Deaths in the United States surged by 18% during the past year, according to data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds of those additional deaths are attributed to COVID, which means one-third is attributable to something else — possibly illnesses and injuries that went untreated because of COVID lockdowns and medical resources being diverted to virus patients.
The human toll of COVID-19 has been staggering, but the fight against the virus may have provided the critical mass for an explosion of medical innovation.
For decades, scientists have worked on mRNA technology, the technology used in the first two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States, those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
In the case of COVID-19, the mRNA vaccines tell a vaccinated person’s cells to make one protein, harmless by itself, found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. That primes the person’s immune system to fight against COVID infection.
Both Pfizer and Moderna were working on mRNA technology to fight other viruses when the new coronavirus pandemic began, and both, adapting that technology to the new threat, had working vaccines within weeks. Most of last year amounted to both companies testing that technology for safety and effectiveness.
The fight against COVID is a testament to scientific adaption and regulatory streamlining, and the proof of its success is unmistakable. Over the weekend, daily COVID deaths in the United States dropped to their lowest number since the pandemic began in March 2020. This comes as other countries, primarily in Europe and South America, where vaccine rollouts have been slower and subject to needless regulatory delays, have resulted in those nations experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
We may not have jet packs, but we could be on the verge of finding a cure for the common cold. More importantly, we could be on the verge of a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
AIDS is no longer the death sentence it was in the 1980s. There are now drugs and drug combinations that can help people who are HIV positive continue to live largely normal lives, but a vaccine against the virus still eludes us — although perhaps for not much longer.
Recent vaccine trials have yielded a vaccine that produces effective HIV antibodies in 97% of patients. These trials are still in their earliest phase, so there is a long way yet to go, but the researchers are now teaming with Moderna researchers to bring Moderna’s mRNA technology into the equation.
AIDS is one of the diseases for which researchers have long hoped mRNA could finally provide the elusive vaccine.
Additionally there is a long list of pathogens, from malaria to Dengue fever, which still plague much of the developing world and for which scientists hold out a lot of hope for mRNA technology.
We could be on the brink of medical breakthroughs that could advance human well-being globally on a scale comparable to the collapse of communism and the industrial revolution. Think about how COVID has hurt First World economies, then imagine the impact all of these other viruses have on the Third World. Now imagine a cure.
There is good reason for optimism.
The Dothan Eagle on whether Gov. Kay Ivey will seek re-election:
While some Alabama politicians are looking ahead to the 2022 elections, at least one is keeping her cards close to the vest. Gov. Kay Ivey was asked directly last week whether she intended to seek re-election. She said she was busy with matters like COVID-19 vaccinations and plans to address the state’s prison woes, but her answer suggests she’s given it thought and made a decision: “My plate is pretty full right now, and it’s just not time to make that decision known,” Ivey said.
It’s refreshing to see an elected official keep their attention on the matters they were put in office to attend rather than looking ahead to the next election. Ivey’s refusal to be pulled into a maelstrom of 2022 discussion sends the message that there’s still a great deal of work to do between now and January 2023 when the next governor is sworn in.
Ivey has been a popular governor, and would likely win another term if she pursues it. Her strongest potential opponent is Lt. Gov. Will Ainsley, who said last week he would not challenge Ivey if she sought another term.
Aficionados of state politics may be disappointed that a race isn’t shaping up yet, but can turn their attention to the boiling kettle of the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Richard Shelby. Infamous congressman Mo Brooks is already making noise, having announced his intention recently. Ditto Lynda Blanchard, a former U.S. ambassador to Slovenia in the Trump administration.
Surely more candidates will emerge in both races. Stay tuned.
The Cullman Times on a proposed bill that would lift a ban on yoga in public schools:
A bill that would have lifted the decades-old ban on teaching yoga in Alabama’s k-12 schools stalled in committee this week. Despite the documented benefits of yoga, and overwhelming passage by the House, the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms. The bill introduced this year by Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray of Opelika, would have allowed schools to offer yoga classes that would be limited to poses and stretches. All poses would have to have English names and the use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden.
Under this bill, yoga classes would basically be classes on exercises that improve flexibility, strength and balance.
The health benefits of yoga have been documented by the likes of Johns Hopkins, the American Osteopathic Association and Harvard University. Yoga has been shown to increase energy and athleticism, reduce the rate of injuries and decrease stress.
“If this bill passes, then instructors will be able to come into classrooms as young as kindergarten and bring these children through guided imagery, which is a spiritual exercise, and it’s outside their parents’ view. And we just believe that this is not appropriate,” Eagle Forum Alabama Director Becky Gerritson told the committee.
Guided imagery - the use of positive, peaceful imagery, such as “picture yourself at the beach” - has proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Considering the mental health crisis facing our youth and the year-after-year increase in teen suicides - and that Alabama’s youth suicide rate is consistently higher than the national rate - teaching children ways to manage stress and anxiety can only be a good thing.
Gray realized the health benefits of yoga when he was introduced to it as a football player at North Carolina State University. He has been doing it ever since.
But in a stretch of reasoning, Alabama Eagle Forum and the Foundation for Moral Law argued that because yoga is common in Hinduism, allowing schools to offer it would be promoting the religion.
According to a survey commissioned the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, there are about 37 million Americans who practice yoga and the number is growing. That’s 34.77 million more people than there are followers of Hinduism in the United States.
It would be safe to assume that many of the people who practice yoga are also Christians.
Gray is among them. “This whole notion that if you practice yoga, you’ll become Hindu - I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I go to church and I’m very much a Christian,” he said.
His bill offers flexibility: School systems don’t have to offer yoga if they don’t want to, and if they do, students will still have the option of choosing an alternative activity.
The bill passed the House in a 73-25 vote, and failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a tie vote. The chairman has said he will bring the bill back when more members of the committee are present. We hope he does and that the members vote in favor of the bill.
It’s time for Alabama to pull itself out of the sleeping yogi pose and allow students to enjoy the health benefits yoga provides.