Hundreds of protesters gather against new flu vaccine mandate in Massachusetts

first_imgMarianVejcik/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News(BOSTON) — Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to protest a new flu vaccine mandate for Massachusetts students, enacted as school districts prepare to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.At the demonstration in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston, protesters — some of them children — held signs that read “Unavoidably unsafe,” “My child, my choice,” “Parents call the shots” and “I am not a threat.” “No forced shots” was written in chalk in front of the statehouse. Many demonstrators were not wearing masks or social distancing, according to photos and videos taken of the event.The protest follows an Aug. 19 announcement from state officials that influenza immunization will be required for all children ages 6 months or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, and K-12. Full-time undergraduate and graduate students under 30 and all full and part-time health science students attending school in the state must also get the vaccine.Several protesters said that the flu shot should be a choice — an argument frequently used against mask mandates, including in schools — due to the pandemic.“The flu vaccine should not be a mandate. It should be a choice,” Jessica Marchant told ABC Boston affiliate WCVB.Other protesters told the station they believe state officials are “taking advantage” of the fear caused by the virus.“I think parents are vulnerable right now. They need their kids to go to school and they backed us into a corner,” Taryn Proulx told WCVB-TV. “We feel like we have to just comply or rearrange our whole lives and homeschool our children.”The mandate comes as experts are bracing for what some have called a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and the flu. Children are more vulnerable to the seasonal flu than COVID-19, medical experts told ABC News. Those under 5 years old are at the highest risk of developing serious flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve health care resources,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in a statement announcing the flu requirement.Under the mandate, students must now receive the vaccine annually by Dec. 31. Medical or religious exemptions are allowed. Home-schooled or off-campus college students are also exempt. Elementary and secondary students who are remote are not exempt.A majority of school districts in the state, including Boston, plan to reopen in the coming weeks with hybrid learning, according to an analysis by WCVB.Massachusetts has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. During the 2018-2019 flu season, 81% of children ages 6 months to 17 years and 53.5% of adults got the vaccine, according to the CDC.Massachusetts is the first state to mandate the flu vaccine for all children and joins a handful of states that already require it for child care and/or preschool enrollees, according to research by the Immunization Action Coalition.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Get the stadium deal moving

first_imgGet the stadium deal movingThere are many ideas for a new Viking’s stadium, but nobody’s acted on them. David SteinbergSeptember 28, 2011Jump to CommentsShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailPrintBy now everyone has heard something about the issues surrounding a new VikingâÄôs stadium âÄî although there are now so many possibilities of what that âÄúsomethingâÄù could be that itâÄôs hard to keep track.Will it be in Minneapolis? Arden Hills? What about the new roof and turf that was just installed at the Metrodome? And what will the team do in the interim once the lease has expired while waiting for a new venue to be established? These are just some of the questions weâÄôve heard at this point, with few corresponding answers.With the state government shutdown still in the rearview mirror, politicians keep pushing this issue down the road. However, with the Metrodome lease expiration looming this coming February, they must make decisions soon.Both the Vikings management and the state government have stated that Arden Hills is their priority. Yet how this endeavor will be paid for is still unknown. A Ramsey County estimate would ask for $407 million from the Vikings, $300 million from the state and $350 million from the county through an increased sales tax. But questions persist about whether the public, including those with no interest in the team, should have to pay for a new stadium. Complicating things, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson wrote a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton requesting $30.5 million from the state for what the city of Minneapolis has done to preserve the Metrodome throughout its 30 years. While R.T. Rybak is not against the Arden Hills proposal and Dayton is not against the repayment to Minneapolis, no decisions have been made.Someone must act on these ideas âÄî and soon âÄî to create a viable option for all parties. Otherwise, the only option might be another one that has been floating around for a while: complete team relocation. David Steinberg welcomes comments at [email protected]last_img read more

Everything you need to know about the Dutch election

first_imgiStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – Europe is preparing for a series of elections across the continent in the coming months that could determine the future of the European Union amid rising anti-establishment movements. The first of these will take place in the Netherlands next week as Dutch voters elect a new parliament and their next prime minister. Among the candidates is one that has been called the Dutch Donald Trump and is perhaps one of the most notable populist leaders in Europe at the moment.Here’s what you need to know about the Dutch election.Who are the main players?Geert WildersThe populist leader’s Party for Freedom (PVV) began as a fringe party but is now one of the most formidable forces in this election, challenging more established parties with its anti-EU, anti-Islam platform. Wilders’ populist appeal has elicited frequent comparisons to Trump.MAKE THE NETHERLANDS GREAT AGAIN! #PVV #PVV #PVV #PVV #PVV— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) April 26, 2016Wilders has campaigned on a platform that calls for banning immigration from Muslim countries, shutting down mosques and removing the Netherlands from the EU. The far-right leader was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Moroccans in the Netherlands last year and recently made headlines for calling Moroccans “scum who make the streets unsafe.”Mark RutteThe current prime minister is seeking his third term in office along with his Liberal (VVD) Party, which is currently governing in a coalition with the Labor Party (PvdA). During his time in office, Rutte has had to fend off growing criticism from populist quarters, led primarily by Wilders. These criticisms have grown particularly pronounced in the wake of Europe’s refugee crisis. In response, Rutte has moved to the right during the campaign. In January, the prime minister published an open letter to the country’s citizens saying that anyone who refused to adapt to Dutch traditions should either “behave normally or go away.”When is the vote?Dutch voters will go to the polls on Wednesday, March 15. The results of the election will determine which party will have a chance to form a new government.What are the biggest issues?Immigration and Dutch EU membership are two of the biggest issues in this political campaign. Wilders has highlighted both and made a point of tying them to questions of Dutch identity. Rutte has jumped on the bandwagon with his appeal to integration but has also made a point of highlighting the ongoing recovery of the Dutch economy, which has seen unemployment drop to a five-year low, with 2.5 percent economic growth.How does the voting system work?While only a few parties really have a chance of winning enough votes to form a government, Dutch voters are actually choosing between 28 different parties in this election. This matters because parliament’s make-up is determined by the proportion of votes received by each party. There are 150 seats up for grabs; if one single party received more than 50 percent of the vote that party could instantly have enough seats to run its own government. But, because that rarely happens, parties typically have to form coalitions with other parties. The current government is a coalition of Rutte’s VVD with the Labor Party (PvdA).Who is expected to win?Polls have consistently shown Wilder’s PVV marginally ahead of Rutte’s VVD but that lead has narrowed as the election has drawn closer. However, even if the PVV got the most votes, the party is not expected to be able to find allies in parliament willing to build a coalition government. Most parties have already voiced their opposition to working with the PVV, in which case the VVD will be tasked with forming a coalition.Why are ballots being counted by hand?In February, Dutch officials said they would count all ballots by hand over fears of cyber-hacking of election software. Allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election have raised concerns about the vulnerability of computer software and whether elections could be manipulated by outside actors.“I cannot rule out that state actors may try to benefit from influencing political decisions and public opinion in the Netherlads,” interior minister Ronald Plasterk said in a letter to parliament last month.Why are these elections significant?As the first in a series of European elections that will test the political viability of far-right, populist parties, the Dutch election is seen as a crucial bellwether. Regardless of whether Wilders is actually able to become the prime minister, he has already succeeded in shaping the public discourse around issues like immigration and the Netherlands’ EU membership. Even as an opposition party, Wilders can guarantee that these issues remain at the forefront of Dutch politics.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. Powered by WPeMatico Relatedlast_img read more

Attack ads on simmer Manitoba election campaign more about issues than scandal

first_imgWINNIPEG — With one party leader getting into trouble over his tropical vacation home and another with past criminal convictions and misogynistic writings, there’s a lot of material for a negative Manitoba election campaign.But halfway through the four-week campaign, party advertising has not been overly negative.“They might be saving it,” says Royce Koop, head of political studies at the University of Manitoba.Long before Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister called the election for Sept. 10, the Opposition New Democrats consistently attacked Pallister over his vacation villa in Costa Rica, where he at one point planned to spend up to two months a year. Pallister also failed to pay a Costa Rica tax on luxury properties until recently because he had not kept his property assessment up to date.Following regular attacks in the legislature, the New Democrats held a fundraising raffle. The winner got a Costa Rica vacation.On the campaign trail, however, the New Democrats have been tightly focused on public services, especially Pallister’s ongoing reforms to health care that have seen some hospital emergency departments downgraded.Their one, very marked exception is two recent ads in which actors appear to call Pallister an “ass,” although the last two letters are drowned out by traffic noise.“We don’t want to make it personal about Brian Pallister. We want to make it about what he’s done,” says Bob Dewar, the NDP’s campaign director who also ran the party’s efforts in 1999 and 2003 under Gary Doer. Most recently, he directed John Horgan’s win in British Columbia.People on doorsteps already know about Pallister’s Costa Rica issues, Dewar said. The messaging now is about front-line programs.“When (people) sit around their kitchen tables and their living rooms and talk to each other, they’re talking about things that matter in their lives. And health care is one of them and we want to make sure we’re talking about that.”Pallister’s Tories have been running some negative ads on Kinew, mainly about a domestic assault charge against him that was stayed by the Crown and an assault conviction for which he has received a record suspension.But the advertising has been small-scale for a party with over $1 million in the bank — five times what the New Democrats have, according to the latest financial filings with Elections Manitoba.The Tories have run professionally produced, positive ads focusing on Pallister’s personal history — his rise from poverty and entry into politics. Most of the attacks on Kinew have been low-budget web videos or graphics on a website.The Tories’ campaign director, David McLaughlin, hinted that advertising efforts from all parties may be on simmer until later in the campaign, especially with people on summer holidays.“In terms of advertising resources and campaign marketing resources, there’s clearly, in election campaigns, more propensity to decide in the latter half of the campaign,” McLaughlin said.“In the context of Mr. Kinew, we haven’t been silent on it. It’s been out there, but we’ll see what’s required, as people pay attention and start to ask some questions.”Kinew has a lot of potential target material, some of which he was up front about in his 2015 memoir. He was convicted of impaired driving and assaulting a taxi driver — matters for which he has since received record suspensions.But Kinew’s book did not include some disturbing facts contained in the court record about the latter conviction — the incident started with Kinew uttering racial epithets at the driver. The book also did not reveal an accusation from a former girlfriend of domestic assault, which was stayed by the Crown several months after she went to police and the charge was laid.There were also misogynistic and homophobic rap lyrics and social media posts Kinew made, including a lyric in which he bragged about slapping women’s genitalia and a Twitter post in which he asked if he could catch avian flu from “kissing fat chicks.”There can be a risk for the Tories in going too negative and facing a potential backlash from voters, Koop said.But the party may be also be feeling comfortable with their current public support. Polls this year have consistently suggested the Progressive Conservatives have a substantial lead on the NDP, although the race is tight in vote-rich Winnipeg.“It might be that the Tories feel from their polling that they don’t really need to use (negative advertising) as intensely as they thought they did,” Koop said.“And the NDP might be finding that it doesn’t really help them that much to go after Pallister.”Steve Lambert, The Canadian Presslast_img read more