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Amish herd immunity claim sparks fierce debate


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 23, 2021
Election questions, relief denied, plain pandemic, abuse unseen, police failures, senator's injuries, ghost town, pot lights, and Warhol's cookbook. It's Tuesday.

Amending the Pennsylvania Constitution is a lengthy process that ends at the ballot box, where voters are asked to make consequential decisions based off a few lines of text. 

That means each word included — and excluded — is critical and highly scrutinized. This year's primary is no different. 

As Spotlight PA reports, two proposed constitutional amendments that will be before voters this May deal with limits on a governor's disaster declaration powers. Each quickly drew the ire of Republicans who called ballot language written by the Wolf administration “prejudicial.” They are not alone. 

THE CONTEXT: Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said the Wolf administration's questions use “loaded terminology” and lack context. Yost pointed to a 2016 study that proved just how much this matters in determining the outcome.

Using another controversially worded ballot question — that one about judicial retirement age — the center surveyed members of the public, each randomly given three versions of the question: one written by the Wolf administration, one written by Republicans, and another written by pollsters.

When shown the pollster and Wolf versions, the measure failed. When shown the Republican language, it passed — which is what ultimately happened in real life.


"There is and there needs to be a higher professional standard for police, especially when it comes to social media."

—Lincoln Borough Police Chief Richard Bosco on an officers-only Facebook group filled with hostile and hateful posts
VACCINE UPDATE: AstraZeneca says a U.S. trial proved its embattled COVID-19 vaccine is effective and poses no increased risk of blood clotting, as was previously suspected in Europe. The findings could clear the way for its emergency authorization in the U.S. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» The Fettermans: Join Spotlight PA at 5 p.m. April 6 for a conversation and reader Q&A with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Second Lady Gisele Fetterman on immigration, legal cannabis, racism, and more. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: This photo of a large staircase at Annville's Quittie Creek Nature Park makes us miss the snow just a little. Thanks, Kathleen E., for sharing! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
EMERGENCY STOP: A frenzied bid to restore a ballot question that could open the window for lawsuits by clergy sex abuse victims has failed, with Republicans saying they don't believe the matter is an emergency or an appropriate use of the legislature's rarely used emergency powers, Spotlight PA reports. That means abuse survivors will have to wait until at least 2023 for their next chance.

HERD IMMUNITY: An expert estimates 90% of Pennsylvania's Amish and Mennonite families have had at least one member infected with COVID-19, achieving what no other community in the U.S. has: herd immunity. Other experts dispute the latter claim, saying even if true, herd immunity doesn't offer permanent protection. “It’s not a switch that once it gets thrown, you’re good. It’ll wear off,” one told LancasterOnline.

INVISIBLE HARM: Reports of child abuse and neglect dropped in Pennsylvania over the past year, and that may actually be bad news. Advocates suspect abuse is actually up but being reported less often with more students out of the classroom and at home. “I just don’t think the children are receiving the protection that they once received,” Berks County's district attorney told PennLive.

POLICING ERRORS: Philadelphia's now-infamous corralling of Black Lives Matter protesters on I-676 is front and center in a New York Times report on U.S. policing errors seen during last summer's George Floyd-inspired demonstrations. The report says that history may soon repeat, with more protests possible as the trial of a former police officer charged in Floyd’s death gets ready to begin.

'SERIOUS INJURIES': A state senator is recovering after a Sunday morning motorcycle crash caused "serious orthopedic injuries to his lower extremities,” the Associated Press reports. Fifty-nine-year-old state Sen. Mike Regan (R., York) was said to be receiving treatment at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. There were no additional details available as of press time.
BOOM GOES THE FIREWORK: Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are having second thoughts about those fireworks they legalized four years ago, saying the added tax revenue isn't worth the added nuisance, WFMZ reports. "We screwed up,” said Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D., Allentown), who's sponsoring a bill to repeal the law. "We need to fix that. We made a mistake."

GHOSTED: The lost town of Seitzland Village in York County was a hopping place during rail's 19th-century peak, with roughly 72 trains passing through a day — approximately one every 18 minutes. But in 1972, the railroad was decommissioned and decades of decay followed. Now, one determined couple is telling the York Daily Record about their big plans to make the hamlet hop again.

GLOW UP: That pink glow in the sky over Carlisle at 5 a.m.? That would be lights from the borough's medical marijuana grow operation. The same thing happened in Arizona, where The Republic explained it's a lighting trick used by growers to boost cold-weather plant production. "Basically, the pink light makes winter weed better," the outlet offered.

CELEBRITY CHEF: A parody cookbook by Pittsburgh pop artist Andy Warhol is up for auction. Come for "recipes" like the "A & P Surprise" and "Chocolate Balls A La Chambord," stay for the intricate and charming Warhol-made illustrations. A single copy is expected to fetch between $30,000 and $50,000 when bidding ends March 30, per the Post-Gazette. 

INTRO TO BBQ: A Philadelphia history and social justice professor is getting into the barbecue business, launching his own pop-up restaurant and maybe, just maybe, a new career. “If I have to choose between the two, I’m still uncertain to tell you the truth,” R. Scott Hanson told The Inquirer. "But weird things happen in your 50s, and the success of this surprised me.”
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Sophomore

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Craig W., Neal W., Joel S., Jill G., Susan D., Dixie S., Irene R., Kevin H., Bill C., David I., Becky C., Patricia M., Mark O., Jan R., Elaine C., Kim C., Dennis M., James B., Dianne K., Adrien M., Beth T., Stephanie S., Carol D., Jill K., Heidi B., David W., Elizabeth W., Anna T., Daniel M., Keith F., Bob R., George S., Cynthia H., Suzanne S., Craig E., Rick D., Anna H., Laura B., Marsha B., Paul H., Mary Kay M., John A., and Ron P.
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