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September 26, 2011

Californians long for the days when epidemics crippled the population

Thousands entering Calif. schools without vaccines - Sacramento News - Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Last year's class of California kindergartners had a record high percentage of parents who used a personal belief exemption to avoid immunization requirements, a development that concerns state health officials. More than 11,000 kindergartners missed at least one vaccine in 2010 because their parents decided to forgo inoculation. At nearly 2.5 percent of the state's 470,000 kindergartners, that's California's highest rate of declined vaccines since at least 1978, the year before the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was required. The percentage is more than double that in certain parts of the state, particularly in more affluent coastal communities in Northern California. The public debate over childhood vaccinations has been growing throughout California, where last year a deadly spike in whooping cough cases killed 10 babies and sickened more than 9,100 people. The outbreak prompted a state law that requires middle and high school students to get whooping cough booster shots before going back to school this year. . . .

September 24, 2011

An epidemic of pig thefts hits the midwest

Midwest Farmers on Alert as Pig Thieves Strike - NYTimes.com
. . . “They all look alike,” said Curt Younker, the sheriff, who said he had only rarely heard of pig thefts in his decades on the job. “Suddenly we’re plagued with them.” Some livestock economists pointed to the thefts in this hog-rich region as one more sign of the grim economy, a reflection of record-high prices for hogs this year and the ease of stealing pigs from the large barns that are often far from the farmer’s house. “This is the hot commodity of the moment, like copper a few years ago and gold,” said Ryan Bode, whose family company, Rebco Pork, discovered that 150 of its pigs were missing last Friday, shortly before they were to be taken to market. The loss was $30,000, he said, on top of the “ungodly high” price of corn that he had paid to feed those pigs for six months until they were fat enough to be sold. “And after all that, they’re not here,” he said. . . .

September 20, 2011

Small towns turn to the internet to be jerks to one another

I'm not a fan of living in small towns. It feels too isolated, too cloistered, and too poisonous to me. Give me a large, diverse population bristling with ideas and culture any day of the week. There is a note to this story, a subtext, that as long as the gossip and pettiness was in the hands of a few Elite Old People it was okay, but as soon as anyone had the power to sit in judgment on their neighbors it became a problem. Look, the problem here isn't that people are being anonymous dicks on the internet, it's that other people in the small town are believing what anonymous dicks post on the internet. Small-Town Gossip Moves to the Web, Anonymous and Vicious - NYTimes.com
. . . But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another. And in Dee’s Place, people are not happy. A waitress, Pheobe Best, said that the site had provoked fights and caused divorces. The diner’s owner, Jim Deverell, called Topix a “cesspool of character assassination.” And hearing the conversation, Shane James, the cook, wandered out of the kitchen tense with anger. His wife, Jennifer, had been the target in a post titled “freak,” he said, which described the mother of two as, among other things, “a methed-out, doped-out whore with AIDS.” Not a word was true, Mr. and Ms. James said, but the consequences were real enough. Friends and relatives stopped speaking to them. Trips to the grocery store brought a crushing barrage of knowing glances. She wept constantly and even considered suicide. Now, the couple has resolved to move. “I’ll never come back to this town again,” Ms. James said in an interview at the diner. “I just want to get the hell away from here.” . . .