Fewer ear infections for US babies – and why?

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Increases in breastfeeding, decreases in parental smoking, and vaccination against pneumonia and influenza were linked to the reduced incidence of ear infections among U.S. babies in their first year of life…

Rates of acute otitis media have dropped significantly since the 1980s and 1990s, reported Tasnee Chonmaitree, MD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and colleagues.

Nearly half – 46% – of the 367 babies followed between 2008 and 2014 had an ear infection in their first year of life, compared with around three out of five babies in studies conducted 2 and 3 decades ago, they wrote in Pediatrics.

Breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months or more was associated with a significantly lower risk for upper respiratory infection, while day care attendance and having multiple siblings were both associated with an increased risk for the infections in the study.

Ear infections remain the leading cause of physician visits, antibiotic use, and surgery among babies and young children. The findings suggest that factors such as the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines for infants, increased breastfeeding, and declines in infant secondhand smoke exposure have all contributed to lower ear infection incidence…

“These findings are reassuring,” she said. “Breastfeeding specifically was shown to be associated with a lower risk for common cold, which leads to ear infections.”…

Chonmaitree said the introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine almost 2 decades ago, and the recent recommendation that babies receive the influenza vaccine starting at the age of 6 months, may have had the biggest impact on AOM incidence.

Reduced exposure to secondhand smoke from parents is also a likely contributor to lower AOM rates, although the study was too small to show this, she added.

All good science and healthful findings. Now, if we could convince the political hacks of America that helping folks to raise healthy children is good for the nation, our economy, our future, they’d back off from the stupidity of [their side of] class warfare and lose budgets and regulations that confine healthy pediatrics only to those who can afford it.

Juneteenth — and where to honor the end of slavery


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Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army announced to the assembled crowd at Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, “In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

It was June 19, 1865.

Never mind that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been written and read more than two years earlier. Juneteenth, named for the June 19 declaration, started as a celebration of emancipation day in Texas and eventually spread to other states. With celebrations dating back to 1866, Juneteenth now commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

“America cannot understand its own history unless the African-American experience is embraced as a central factor in shaping who we are and what we have become as Americans,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington…

In honor of Juneteenth, the museum helped CNN.com choose six destinations that will enlighten and educate visitors about a complicated period of American history, the road to emancipation.

They are in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, two in South Carolina and one in California.

For me, it has become Lubbock, Texas.

Most of my life I lived in New England and the choice was easy among friends and family. We’d drive up north of Torrington, Connecticut to the small plot of land saved as memorial as the birthplace of the abolitionist, John Brown. A peaceful country road, a pleasant spot to picnic and remember turmoil and death and change. And Freedom.

I was on the road my first year in the Southwest when Juneteenth came up and I was in Lubbock, Texas. My only clients in town were white and had no idea of the holiday. The Confederate history of Texas didn’t make it likely there would be much official celebrating going on in cotton country. But, at the end of the afternoon I drove to the Black end of Lubbock and looked for a church with lots of cars parked nearby – on a weekday. And found one.

I walked round to a picnic area behind the church and there were a hundred or so folks celebrating the day with music and speeches, music and arms that welcomed a white stranger into the anniversary like I had always lived there. As it should be throughout this land.

Aftermath of Ike: Gay bar becomes a haven

As Galveston told its remaining residents to leave the Texas island devastated by Hurricane Ike, Robert’s Lafitte, a gay bar, was planning a pre-curfew drag show and Tina Turner sing-along.

The first of two bars to reopen after Ike’s onslaught on Saturday, Robert’s Lafitte is a haven in the storm — for gays, straights, anyone who needs a place to drink and find comfort…

Big Mouth Robert, the establishment’s owner and a former female impersonator, said the bar took 3 feet (1 meter) of water and closed when Ike’s fury blew out the windows. But after a mop-up the next morning, Robert’s Lafitte was back in business.

“All of our customers kind of demanded it,” said Robert. “It’s their bar and they kind of dictate what’s going on. We’re survivors.”

The bar is setting out food donated by locals for people in need. Some 20,000 people are thought to be still on the island and food and water are scarce.

It’s more than a life saver. This is like the Coast Guard,” said Brian DeLeon, a straight restaurant worker who had not visited the bar before. “These are the people who take you up out of the water and make life livable. Once I get back to work, I’m coming back here.”

When push comes to shove, it’s nice to see the essentials of community surpass cultural hangups.