Confessions of a News Addict

IS NOW THE TIME TO KICK THE HABIT?

Soon after the dawn of 2020 – remember way back then? – the news was overwhelming. Junkies like me were waking up at three AM worrying about the coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, environmental disaster, uncertainties at every turn and erratic leadership that could plunge us all into a dark hole at any moment. It was clearly a good time to lay off the news. So I tried. Repeatedly, beginning about March 15. 

I admit this up front: I am powerless over news-following. The first step in recovery is to admit one’s powerlessness. So here it is. I have a compulsion to start the day with the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle print editions; it goes back too many decades to record. Likewise PBS NewsHour. Those might not add up to an incurable addiction. But then MSNBC and CNN crept in, first as sort of companion background noise, later as entertainment during treadmill exercise after my geezer building went on lockdown. And finally, brief but compulsory glimpses of Fox News, just because I feel the need to figure out the parallel universe inhabited by so many of my fellow citizens.

Good citizenship morphed into addiction. I admitted: I am powerless over NewsJunkieism. I determined to quit, and get a decent night’s sleep.

But wait! I would tell myself, in the clear light of the morning, when friends would advise just to turn off Breaking News. I’m not totally powerless after all. I can vote. I can call my representatives, send letters and emails. I can fund immigration causes or justice workers in the trenches. I can march in the streets – well, no, I’m in quarantine. But maybe I’ll send another contribution to Amy McGrath . . . And then myself would say, “Without knowing what’s happened since breakfast? Mitch McConnell might have been hit by a falling meteor.”

See? Once you fall victim to this addiction early resolve quickly crumbles.

And then everything else fell apart, beginning with the world watching as an African American man was casually murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis. Evolving quickly into millions of ordinary people around the world joining their voices in protest. Despite the horrors wrought by opportunistic bad guys swooping in to loot and destroy, those ordinary good people represent hope for a better future that will surely emerge.

How can you not read every word? Watch every newscast? Arm yourself with accurate data to go to work for that future?

Maybe I’ll kick the habit next month.

Banished by Facebook — the new justice by internet

I have been exiled from Facebook Land, a status that really should have a status bar all its own. Actually, it was just one post that got summarily banished — but still…

Facts of the case: I posted, not long ago, a brief story of interesting discoveries made by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation that were reported in a segment on MSNBC. The foundation, headed by Dr. David Waters, DVM, PhD, works to extend longevity in pets and people through collection of vast amounts of data, much of it canine data. The news involved a 13-year-old Rottweiler named Kona.

PETA strongly supports the work of the Gerald P. Murphy Foundation. I thought I’d throw that into this report. The earlier post didn’t mention PETA, but it was clear about this fact: the foundation collects data, it does not conduct experiments using animals. The story was about clues to longevity found through data analysis.

Oh, well — dogs and research were mentioned, and flags went up somewhere in cyberspace.

The post was reported as abusive. Facebook summarily removed the whole thing, and anyone who encountered the link on my Facebook page was greeted with the message that I had been cited for abuse. No way could whoever reported me have actually read the piece.

We come now to a small detail in the U.S. Constitution usually called the confrontation clause, something about facing one’s accuser – or at least knowing what one is accused of. The framers of the Constitution didn’t know about Facebook, whose policy apparently is if someone, anyone, thinks you’ve done a bad, you’re off the page, and that’s the end of that. (You want to talk to someone about it? Try finding a Facebook face you might be able to face, virtually or otherwise.)

I have no immediate plans to sue Facebook. It seems in a way a badge of honor – I mean, how many people to you know who’ve had a post kicked off of Facebook? I am a little sorry about those folks who missed learning of an innovative nonprofit thanks to someone who didn’t bother to do so.

But now that this post is headed to my Facebook status bar, and includes the magic word combination, we wonder if I will be doubly banished.

Stay tuned.

New cancer insights from man's — and woman's — best friend

Lessons on love and fidelity have long been learned from the canine kingdom; now add cancer and aging.

The Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, a not-for-profit research foundation headquartered in West Lafayette, Indiana, has a mission “to accelerate medical progress in the fields of cancer treatment, cancer prevention, and aging,” and is coming up with useful data through studies of pet dogs. (The center was named posthumously, after his untimely death, for founder Gerald Murphy, developer of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test that remains the gold standard for early detection of prostate cancer.) Most recently comes news of discoveries made with the help of Kona, a Rottweiler who is getting along in years herself. It was reported last week on MSNBC by by Anne Marie Tiernon of WTHR-TV.

There are new clues about why some of us live longer than others. A new study of dogs has revealed a new role for the ovaries. Ovaries produce eggs and hormones and also have a primary role in bearing children. But the study in West Lafayette points to a larger ovarian ecology, meaning the ovaries have a role in how long we live.

Kona, a 13-year-old Rottweiler from Cleveland, has achieved exceptional longevity for her breed. Most live about nine years. Data about Kona and 304 other Rottweilers was collected and analyzed at the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation.’We are trying to find ways to promote exceptional longevity in pets and people,’ said Dr. David Waters, DVM PhD. director of the Exceptional Living Studies Center.

In combing through the dog data, the Center’s researchers found links between ovaries and a long life.

‘To reach exceptional longevity is to live about 30 percent longer, similar to the difference between a 100-year-old person and a person that would only live, let’s say, 72 years,’ Dr. Waters said. So we are talking about a big difference and that keeping ovaries longer was associated with an increased likelihood of reaching exceptional longevity.’

Being a female, Kona was born with a 2-to-1 advantage over male dogs to reach her 13th birthday.

‘But the interesting part was when we take a look at the dogs who lose their ovaries, the females who lose their ovaries in the first four years, now the female survival advantage disappears,’ Dr. Waters said.

Dr. Waters, whose research work has extended to a variety of complex issues relating to cancer and aging, sums up the bottom line for women:

The takeaway from these studies, including the one with Kona? That doctors and women will pause and question the routine removal of ovaries during a hysterectomy. In the United States, the standard practice for decades has been to remove the ovaries during a hysterectomy to prevent ovarian cancer and maybe some breast cancers that are estrogen-fed.

The findings are something new to add to your plus and minus columns when making a decision with your doctor.