National News

Q-and-A on the News

Posted January 3, 2018 1:43 p.m. EST

Q: In articles regarding the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine against the current strain of flu, there is no mention of the more expensive, higher efficiency vaccine for older folks and its rate of efficiency against the current strain. This is what we got last year. Can you shed some light for us?

-- Joyce Cheshier, Jasper, Ga.

A: A randomized controlled trial compared a high-dose, inactivated influenza vaccine that contained four times the standard amount of influenza antigen to standard dose vaccine in persons aged 65 years or older during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 influenza seasons, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The trial found that the rates of laboratory-confirmed influenza were 24 percent lower among individuals who received the high-dose vaccine compared to those who received the standard dose influenza vaccine, according to a flu vaccine effectiveness page on the CDC website.

It indicated that "high-dose vaccine provided 24 percent better protection against influenza than standard dose vaccine in the trial," according to the website.

In addition, the CDC notes a three-year study from 2006-07 through 2008-09 in Tennessee reported vaccine effectiveness of 61 percent among hospitalized adults over 50 years old.

Q: One of the proposals under consideration for the new tax law was to tax the earnings of large college endowments. That would have cost my alma mater tens of millions of dollars. Did that make it into the final bill?

-- John Titus, Peachtree Corners, Ga.

A: Yes, the tax on a college endowment's annual investment earnings is included in the federal tax overhaul.

Private colleges and universities with at least 500 students face a 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income for tax years after 2017.

The tax is imposed on schools that have assets valued at more than $500,000 per full-time student, and at least 50 percent of the student body located in the United States, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

The NAICU reported that the criteria is met by about 30 institutions, including Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Amherst, Rice, Grinnell, Notre Dame, Emory and Dartmouth. The tax does not apply to state universities and colleges.

"The new excise tax on college and university endowments means there will be fewer dollars available for scholarships, student services, research, and college and university operating expenses, raising costs for affected institutions and working against affordability," NACUBO President and CEO John Walda said.

Q: How and when did fraternities begin? What was their purpose when they started? What were the first fraternities and sororities in the U.S., and at what university did they begin?

-- Lance DeLoach, Thomaston, Ga.

A: The first Greek-letter fraternity was the Phi Beta Kappa Society, which was founded at the College of William & Mary in 1776, according to the society's website and sources such as the New World Encyclopedia. The organization was essentially established as a secret literary society, providing a place for students to discuss topics not covered in their classes.

However, early Greek-letter organizations often formed for a wide range of social, literary and academic reasons. Kappa Alpha Society, which was established in 1825 at Schenectady, New York's Union College, is the nation's oldest Greek-letter social fraternity, according to its website,

The first sorority -- the all-female version of the traditionally male fraternities -- was Syracuse University's Gamma Phi Beta, which was founded in 1874, according to its website, By the end of the 19th century, fraternities and sororities had begun to nationalize, with many organizations setting up chapters at universities.

In addition to being differentiated by their primary purpose, Greek-letter organizations also have varying traditions and symbols, which are often kept secret by their members.

Q: I have three questions concerning public television pledge breaks: Who decides the timing and length of pledge breaks, what are typical ratings for pledge breaks and how much money is raised during pledge breaks?

-- Mickey Biggs, Atlanta

A: Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), the state's PBS affiliate, runs four television fund-raising campaigns each year, Mandy Wilson, the communications and outreach manager for GPB, told Q-and-A on the News in an email.

Wilson said these quarterly fund-raising efforts, in March, June, August and December, are determined by PBS at the national level.

The timing of individual pledge breaks within these campaigns is usually determined by the provider, such as PBS or another program producer, and factors include the length of the shows during which they occur.

The network does not keep ratings for specific pledge breaks, she said.

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Do you have a question about the news? We'll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a(at) (include name, phone and city).

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