TIME Children

Why Polio is Doomed and Gun Violence Isn’t

It's hard to spot the heroism—but it's there
It's hard to spot the heroism—but it's there Randy Plett; Getty Images

It shouldn't take too much courage to stop a scourge that is killing children. Washington's gun cowards could take a lesson from the heroes battling polio

A century ago, the quickest way to diagnose polio was with the belly button test. A doctor would ask a suddenly feverish, bedridden child to lift her head from her pillow and look at her belly button. If she couldn’t do it—if the muscles in her neck and stomach and pretty much anywhere else could no longer contract and lift the way they should—the odds were that the news was bad. Within the day, the child would be paralyzed.

There has always been a particular ugliness to polio—a virus that robs a child of the simple ability to move at what should be the most restless, kinetic, exploratory stage of life. Mercifully, in most of the world that ugliness is gone—though not everywhere.

Meantime, in the U.S., a new kind of horror has taken polio’s place: the school shooting. This one also strikes at children and defies what should be one of childhood’s givens: that school is a place for learning, a place for play, a place that counts as a so-called safe space, even before we became a nation that required such formally designated asylum zones.

Both polio and school shootings are acts of violence—one viral, one human. But only one, polio, is doomed to lose, as I realized yesterday when I attended a briefing by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at U.N. Foundation headquarters in New York, just a day after the latest school school shooting, this one at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore.

The big players at the polio conference were familiar names: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international consulting group Global Health Strategies. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the progress that is being made to eradicate the last case of polio anywhere on the planet—making the disease only the second one, after smallpox, to have been vaccinated into well-deserved extinction.

The polio hunters are tantalizingly close to their goal: In 1988, polio was endemic to 120 countries and claimed 350,000 people—overwhelmingly children—each year. In 2013, there were only 416 cases worldwide and the disease was endemic to just three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the year-to-date-numbers are higher in 2014 than they were last year, thanks mostly to attacks on polio workers by extremists in Pakistan and unrest in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere, which is allowing the virus to slip across borders.

That’s part of the reason the group assembled yesterday—to review their plan to push back against the resurgence, a plan that is breathtaking in its scope: there are the 105 million doses of oral polio vaccine that have been administered in and around Syria; the 3,176 hard-to-reach communities in Nigeria that are now being reached by health care workers bringing oral vaccine; the 2,000 health camps that have been held to educate and vaccinate in the ground zero state of Kano in northern Nigeria and the 10,000 more that are planned; the millions upon millions of children in 126 countries who will be receiving at least one dose of the injectable form of polio vaccine, which uses a killed virus and thus eliminates even the small risk of the weakened virus used in the oral version escaping into the wild.

And then, of course, there is the sheer, literally death-defying brass of the vaccine workers who regularly trudge into the Pakistani tribal areas, knowing that some of the workers who have come before them have been gunned down in drive-by shootings, and that every day they go out with their vials of drops there is a risk they won’t come home. But they go all the same.

Eradicating a viral disease is nothing less than an act of hunting molecules—protein particles so simple they don’t even qualify as technically alive—and destroying them anywhere they are hiding in the world. That’s an almost surreally difficult thing to accomplish, yet that’s what the Gateses and Rotary and WHO and others have decided must be done. And so they’re doing it.

And then, on the other side of the decency and courage arc, are the gun cowards. They are the American legislators who dare not cast a vote that will anger the National Rifle Association; the governors who walk away from the problem even as the children in their states—whose welfare they have sworn to ensure—are being murdered; the political parties that, if they acknowledge the problem at all, consider it too radioactive to take up this year, this session, this electoral cycle.

“‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says the Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” wrote The Onion, in a brilliant riff on the what-can-we-do faux-helplessness of the political class. But in case they’re really wondering, here’s what they can do: they can think less about locking down their base, expanding their majority, dodging the 30-second attack ad and more about the simple safety of children. Because here is a hard fact: there are babies and young people alive today who will be dead soon because of the choices now being made. If that isn’t enough to turn an election night victory into ash, America’s politicians are beyond help.

TIME human behavior

Study: Kids Know When Adults Are Keeping Secrets

88302964
Father and daughter having a talk Nick Daly—Getty Images

A new study from MIT shows that kids won't trust adults who don't tell them the whole truth

Lying about Santa Claus, how babies are born or whether there are cookies in the cookie jar could get parents into trouble. Children are extremely perceptive: past studies have shown that kids can tell when adults are lying to them. But telling children only part of the truth can get adults into trouble too. New research suggests that youngsters can tell when people commit “sins of omission” and even learn not to trust those people.

Researchers at MIT studied how 42 six and seven-year-olds evaluated information. They conducted two experiments. In the first study, the children were separated into two groups: one group got a toy that had four buttons, each of which performed a different function—lights, a windup mechanism, etc.; the other group got a toy that looked the same but only had one button, which activated the windup mechanism.

After the two groups of children had played with their respective toys, the researchers put on a show: a teacher puppet taught a student puppet how to use the toy, but only showed the student puppet the winup function. For the kids playing with the one-button toy, this was all the information; but for the kids playing with the four-button toy, the teacher puppet had left out crucial information.

The researchers then asked all the children to rate the teacher puppet in terms of how helpful it was on a scale from 1 to 20. The kids with the multi-functional toy noticed that the puppet hadn’t told them the whole story and gave it a lower score than the children with the single-function toys did.

The second experiment began with the same premise—splitting the children into two groups, letting them play with their simple or complex toys and then giving a puppet demonstration. But then after the demonstration, the researchers brought out another, totally different toy and gave it to both groups of children. This toy had four functions, and the teacher puppet demonstrated only one.

Children who had the multi-functional toy in the first part of the experiment—and therefore had seen an incomplete demonstration from that teacher puppet before—explored the toy more thoroughly than the children who only had the single-function toy. These children, it seems, had learned to not trust the teacher because of the first uninformative demonstration.

“This shows that children are not just sensitive to who’s right or wrong,” lead author Hyowon Gweon says. “Children can also evaluate others based on who’s providing information that is enough or not enough for accurate inference. They can also adjust how they learn from a teacher in the future, depending on whether the teacher has previously committed a sin of omission or not.”

So watch what you say parents: if you lie to your kids—or even keep secrets from them—they’ll learn to not trust you.

TIME video

‘My Father is an Assassin': How a CIA Spy Told His Kids About His Job

They did not all respond well to the news.

Jack Devine is 32 year veteran of the CIA, working on the operations side. He helped oust Allende from Chile; he gave the mujahedin the stingers with which they shot down the Russian helicopters. He trained with traitor Aldrich Ames. But in his new book Good Hunting, he also talks about being a family man, a father of six.

He developed a method for the delicate job of explaining to his kids what he really did. (Officially, he was “a diplomat”). He liked to have “the talk” in the U.S., to prevent unanticipated leakage, and he had to catch each kid at just the right age. But for his middle daughter, he didn’t get the timing quite right.

In the interview, which is available to subscribers here, Devine also talks about what spies do when they don’t agree with their mission, how they get people to betray their countries and the mishap he had with invisible ink. (HINT: it involves a receipt for a payoff.)

Here’s a longer version of Devine’s chat with Time.

 

 

MONEY deals

Cheap Flicks: Air-Conditioned Movie Theaters and Kid-Friendly Films for $1

kids at movie theaters
You can't beat a $1 movie ticket, even if the film isn't a brand new release. Fuse—Getty Images

Two big movie theater companies are showing kid-friendly films, and tickets (for kids and adults) are just $1 each, sometimes cheaper.

The average movie ticket runs about $8 nowadays. For that same amount, you could pay for eight admissions at hundreds of movie theaters around the country this summer.

Granted, the movies that you’ll see aren’t this summer’s newest, hottest blockbusters. But hey, what would you expect for tickets that sell for a fraction of the price of a small popcorn?

Cinemark, which runs movie theater brands including Rave, Tinseltown, and, of course, Cinemark, is hosting a Summer Movie Clubhouse series. At hundreds of participating theaters around the country—64 in Texas alone—admission is $1 per person (kids and adults) for 10 G- and PG-rated films that aren’t new releases, but are child-pleasers nonetheless. Among the movies in the new program are “Walking with Dinosaurs,” “Epic,” and “The Lego Movie.”

The special shows and special pricing are typically available during the middle of the week, early in the day. For example, the $1 shows at Cinemark in Colorado Springs, Colo., are for 10 a.m. showings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from June 3 through August 6. If even the $1 ticket is too expensive for your blood, Cinemark is offering more bang for the buck via a ten-pack of tickets for $5, or just 50 cents per show.

Meanwhile, the Regal Entertainment Group is hosting a similar midweek $1 family-friendly movie program, the 2014 Summer Movie Express. For nine weeks this summer, participating theaters are screening movies such as “Rio 2,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Madagascar 3,” “The Croods,” “The Lego Movie,” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m., with a flat admission of $1 per person. A portion of the proceeds goes to that mainstay of movie-theater fundraising, the Will Rogers Institute.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Urges Couples to Raise Kids, Not Cats and Dogs

Pope Francis Holds Weekly Audience
Pope Francis Franco Origlia—Getty Images

Pope Francis said that staying childless will ultimately bring married couples nothing but "the bitterness of loneliness"

Pope Francis had a message for married couples on Monday: four-legged friends don’t offer the same opportunities for love and godliness as raising a child.

The Pope addressed a group of 15 couples that have been married between 25 and 60 years during daily Mass on Monday, held in the chapel of the Santa Maria residence in the Vatican. The Pope stressed the importance of three qualities in a successful Christian marriage — faithfulness, perseverance and fruitfulness — during his remarks, according to Vatican Radio.

But the Pope also counseled childless couples to be fruitful and multiply, and not spend time raising pets when they could be raising children. Mentioning the “culture of well-being,” similar to one mentioned in the 2013 TIME cover story “The Childfree Life,” Pope Francis said that while a childless life offers better vacation opportunities, it will end in solitude:

This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free … it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His church fruitful.

In other words, all the effort you spend caring for your furry friends would be of better use if Fido or Fifi were children.

[Vatican Radio]

TIME Parenting

Airborne ‘Bouncy Houses’ Have Nothing on Those Dangerous Rubber Balls

Children's Bounce House Inflatable Jumping Playground
Getty Images

Reports of two "bouncy houses" rolling in the wind have raised questions about the inflatable ride's safety record, but they've got nothing on scooters, dolls and rubber balls

Inflatable “bouncy houses” have been in the headlines lately for two spectacular mishaps. A gust of wind lifted one bouncy house in Colorado off of the ground and rolled it end-over-end for roughly 200 feet on Sunday, injuring two children. This came just weeks after another airborne bouncy house in upstate New York sent two young children tumbling into the emergency room. The scares have put the iconic bouncy house’s safety record in the spotlight, and it indeed looks spotty—that is, until you compare it with injuries related to a rubber ball.

Each year roughly 265,000 children suffer from toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some toys lead to more injuries than others, and to find out which topped the charts, researchers surveyed 100 emergency rooms across the country. One clear chart-topper, vaulting past stilts, rockets and pogo sticks, was a run-of-the-mill kick-push scooter. It was followed by toy balls, toy vehicles and a third category labeled “not specified,” which closer inspection shows to be dolls, plush toys and action figures. The most injurious childhood amusements are also the most ordinary.

Injuries
And that makes sense, given that these toys are staples of the toy cabinet. Children are going to spend a lot more time on a scooter than inside of an inflatable castle that occasionally rolls through town (figuratively, one would hope). And children being children, almost any object over an extended amount of time can pose a risk. Researchers could not observe one statistically significant change in toy-related injuries between 2008 and 2012. The same toys seemed to cause the same injuries year in and year out. It’s a finding that won’t make headlines, but it might be of interest to a parent whose concerns might be momentarily fixated on a rolling bouncy house.

TIME Education

A Whirlwind of Words and Nerves at the National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee commenced on Wednesday, quickening logophiles' hearts as the competition goes about its task of fulfilling or quashing the hopes and dreams of young wordsters. Here are some of the best emotional reactions to getting words right (and wrong) over the years

TIME viral

Watch Kids React in Utter Bemusement at the Sight of an Old Computer

"I don't get it, and I also don't get the 1970s"

Kids these days are accustomed to smartphones and iPads and laptops they can tuck under their arms and tote around effortlessly. But show them a computer from the 1970s and they become much less tech savvy — and much more confused. Watch here as a group of young kids share their (totally hilarious) reactions to this seemingly ancient machine.

TIME medicine

Illinois House Approves Medical Cannabis for Epileptic Kids

A home-grown marijuana plant is seen at an undisclosed location in Israel
A homegrown marijuana plant is seen at an undisclosed location on Jan. 28, 2014 Baz Ratner—Reuters

Minors suffering from epilepsy should be allowed to use medical marijuana to reduce seizures, the Illinois house voted on Wednesday

Kids under 18 could be allowed to use medical marijuana after the house in Illinois expanded the state’s medical-pot law to include epileptic children.

The plan to let minors use medical marijuana passed 98-18 in the house on Wednesday and will now go back to the state’s senate. It was passed there in April but will now be reviewed as the house made an amendment stipulating that the marijuana must not be smoked.

“These people are not interested in getting high,” Democratic state representative Lou Lang, who sponsored the bill, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “These are folks that are interested in alleviating their seizures.”

The active ingredient in marijuana can help reduce the seizures of epileptic minors, parents have said.

TIME Italy

Italian Navy Rescues Hundreds in All-Night Operation

Italian Navy Ship Grecale Carries 206 Migrant Survivors From Recent Shipwreck
Sant'Egidio Community volunteers hold flowers while waiting arrival of Italian Navy Ship Grecale arriving at the Port of Catania, carrying 206 migrants and 17 bodies of the victims of a shipwrecked boat between Sicily and the north of Africa on May 13, 2014 Tullio M. Puglia—Getty Images

Some 500 migrants traveled across the Mediterranean Sea in two fishing boats that were tied together

The Italian navy saved almost 500 migrants in a mission that lasted from Monday night to Tuesday morning and including more than 100 children.

After two tethered fishing boats that had been traveling across the Mediterranean Sea ran into distress off the coast of Sicily, the Associated Press reported that Italy’s navy took 74 women and 133 children on board their vessels, while 281 men were given life-preservers and instructed to hold tight until their Tuesday rescue. Most travelers came from Egypt, Syria, and Bangledesh, AP reports.

While the navy hasn’t disclosed how many of the children were with their families and how many were unaccompanied minors, Save the Children recently raised the alarm over what it alleges to be Italy’s failure to protect migrant children.

Since April 30, 3,848 minors and 2,744 unaccompanied minors have arrived in Italy, AP reported.

[AP]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser