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Florida editorial roundup

October 29, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Oct. 29

News Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on crowdfunding public education:

At the intersection of opportunity and need lies an innovative method for bridging gaps in public education funding.

Find it & Fund it, Florida! (getonthebusflorida.org) is a website created by several Florida K-12 education foundations that allows teachers to post online requests for financial support for their classrooms, such as for purchasing teaching materials or supplies. As recently reported by The News-Journal’s Annie Martin, Volusia County is one of 14 counties that have their own pages (finditfunditflorida.com/volusia/).

For example, Joyce Dauparas Price’s sixth-grade math class at Deltona Middle School is seeking $1,000 to buy dry-erase boards and markers to provide students with sufficient work space to solve math problems. The request itemizes the materials by price, explains how the materials will be used and how they benefit students. The request currently has received 10 percent of its funding goal.

On and on the requests go, from the exotic to the mundane, all explained in detail for the discriminating education online shopper. Browse through the lists, see if one project seems particularly worthy or captures your fancy. Or sprinkle your money like seed corn among several requests.

Bake sales and car washes have long been a staple of schools and their booster clubs to help fund extracurricular activities. Teachers for many years have had to ask their students’ parents to provide some classroom supplies or have had to dip into their own pockets to cover the costs.

In recent years, following the Great Recession, these additional efforts were stretched as thin as a 4-year-old’s excuse because of declining tax revenues and budget cuts.

Educators are smart to embrace the growing phenomenon of “crowdfunding,” whereby artists and entrepreneurs fund projects through mass appeals via online sites such as kickstarter.com and social media. It’s a lot more efficient than standing on a street corner with a hat on the ground soliciting change from passersby. The process isn’t a substitute for general education funding, but it is a creative solution to patch gaps in the system.




Oct. 29

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on scrambling for an Ebola vaccine:

In addition to its deadly effects, which can include internal and external bleeding, the Ebola virus epidemic is also scary because modern science has yet to develop a reliable treatment.

The situation is instructive, and points out shortcomings in medical research that affect treatments for other diseases as well.

Americans are taught to believe, correctly, that capitalism is by far the best kind of economic system for this country. But even capitalism has its gaps, and they can be found in the halting fight against the Ebola virus.

Capitalism anticipates private profits from the public’s voluntary investments.

When drug companies cannot expect profitable results from their efforts to develop and market an anti-Ebola vaccine, then vaccine research is less likely to be a top concern.

Similar situations often occur with rare childhood diseases.

This is not a matter of greed on the part of pharmaceutical companies, but of focusing on drugs that can help the most people.

Medical research must be guided by more than return on investment analysis.

The National Institutes of Health devotes $30 billion a year to research, mostly given toward competitive grants. But funding has been stagnant in recent years, and the number of grants given to researchers has been declining. Liberals want to blame congressional austerity for delaying an Ebola vaccine. That’s unfair. No one was raising the alarm about Ebola until the latest outbreak.

But conservatives do need to acknowledge the government has a key role in funding medical research, particularly research that makes no sense for the private sector.

It is also important to recognize that failure is an inevitable part of research. This is one federal expenditure where Congress cannot always demand results.

To the American public — indeed, to the world at large — Ebola certainly is a game-changer. It does not merit hysteria, but there’s no doubt it’s a genuine threat to world health.

It in no way diminishes the efficacy of capitalism to see that this is the sort of medical research where the federal government’s financial assistance is not only justified, but essential.




Oct. 25

Miami Herald on Cuba earning embargo’s end:

In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures and still inspires heated debate.

The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week’s upcoming vote in the United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo advocates say, there’s a lot the president can do to soften or minimize its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in justification at this time.

Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own property, and new rules are designed to encourage foreign investment. But it’s only because Cuba has been frozen in time for so long that such minimal change seems so dramatic. The Cuban nomenklatura still runs the Soviet-style planned economy that largely remains in place, and its members remain its major beneficiaries.

Some see vague government statements from Havana welcoming renewed diplomatic ties with the United States as a sign that it’s willing to negotiate longstanding differences. We would attribute that not to any goodwill but rather to Cuba hedging its bets as it nervously watches the slide in oil prices and the rise of political instability in Venezuela.

Here’s what Human Rights Watch says: “The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shaming, termination of employment and threats of long-term imprisonment.”

Arrests of dissidents are going up, not down. Press freedom? Forget about it.

Nor has the Cuban government bothered to investigate the death of Oswaldo Payá, perhaps Cuba’s most prominent advocate of democracy, nor to allow an independent investigation of his supposed “accident” by anyone else.

Is there any doubt that the Castro brothers remain committed to maintaining their dictatorship over Cuba? Of course not. As long as that remains the case, the United States has no incentive to extend a welcoming hand.



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