Some good news for the holidays

Billy Joel’s song “We didn’t start the fire” is an accurate reference that problems exist in the world and always have. I think the key difference is with the Internet and social media age we live in, you can find bad news anywhere in the world. It even slams you in the face if your browser opens up to the news of the day. But, it is not any worse than it has been before. I don’t know if that gives people greater or less comfort. To me, the worse issue is the amount of money it takes to get elected makes politicians beholden to funders and not the issues that face their constituents. So, real issues are not addressed in the way they should be.

However, in this time of bad news first, or per my friend Barney’s favorite quote about the press, “if it bleeds, it leads,” there are a few bright spots, even in the darkest stories.

  • The state of New York has banned fracking in their state due to a report that brings into the equation the health risks that fracking poses for its residents. This caught even anti-fracking advocates by surprise with the report noting there is a correlation between health risks and fracking and it warrants further study under the Precautionary Principle, which scientists around the world uphold. This principle states if there appears to be a risk to humans or the environment which impacts humans due to a process, then the group who benefits from the process needs to convince others that it is safe before proceeding.
  • The number of uninsured folks without healthcare coverage has dropped significantly per the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from 17.7% to 12.4% as of September 30, 2014. With the huge enrollment success underway with the Affordable Care Act, with over 2.5 million new enrollees as of December 13, this uninsured rate will drop further. This helps people and the economy as it keeps more folks from becoming a train wreck through preventive services and medications, lessens the risk of bankruptcy due to medical reasons and gives them more money to spend. And, the healthcare costs increases are moderating due in part to the Affordable Care Act per multiple sources.
  • While the war on Ebola is far from won, significant progress has been made to the extent people can get a breath of air. Also, with candidates not in election mode spreading fear about Ebola risks, it is less center stage in the US. While it is still a real threat in those countries where it started, there seems to be more concerted efforts and positive stories in the battle to contain the virus. Time Magazine hit a home run with its recognition of the Ebola Fighters as the persons of the year in 2014.
  • Beneath the bad news on ISIS and the Taliban attack that killed the children in Pakistan, the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds are beginning to see who the real danger is to their existence. It is not the US and western allies with all of our imperfections. It is extremists who take advantage of economic strife and blame others for their problems. Killing children glorifies no one. Killing women glorifies no one. Killing people who disagree with you means you fear your argument cannot stand up to debate. The counter balancing problem is the corruption in the leadership. When leaders pocket money for aid, permit bribery to be standard operating practice, and squelch dissent, then they also are as guilty for sowing the seeds of disenfranchisement.
  • For all the crap the President is taking for immigration actions and the recent action on normalizing relations with Cuba, the moves are supported by many including the US Chamber of Commerce and will enhance trade, facilitate the retention of intellectual capital and let the economy be the best goodwill ambassador. Even during the Jim Crow era, economic trade benefitted all and normalized relations to a certain extent. The economic goodwill set the stage for civil right changes. So, if we can leverage what has been done and pass supportive bills to both, getting beyond the “gotcha politics,” then these efforts can be made even more significant.

Some people may not agree with my conclusions, but I see the above as positive developments, even though some of the good news has been instigated at a horrible cost. To me, we must honor those who have died to make sure that others do not die in vain, especially our children and women who are maltreated in far too many places.

Happy holidays to all. And, bless the women and children in the world. They need our support.

People are blowing this out of proportion says the people blowing it out of proportion

I apologize for the long title, but to me it needed each of the words to state the modus operandi of the mainstream news business in America. I was in a hospital waiting room for about two hours earlier this week, and while I read, the TV in the waiting room was tuned into one of the all news all day networks, this one beginning with a “C” and ending with two “N’s.” For the entire two hours, the coverage was around EBOLA, primarily in the US, with a little seasoning of where the greater risk is in West Africa or the big story that Nigeria is EBOLA free.

The night before on one of the prime time national news, this on beginning with an “A” and ending with a “C,” the network medical news advisor said the scare of EBOLA in the US is being blown out of proportion and we should take comfort in the family and friends exposed to the victim who traveled to Dallas are now out of quarantine without being infected and the two nurses who did catch the virus appear to be doing better. He added that people are blowing the likelihood of catching the disease out of proportion and we should be respectful of the seriousness of the disease, but not panic.

I like the good doctor’s last statement, but his network is one of the ones blowing it out of proportion. The all day news network lives for issues like this, so as evidenced by my hospital waiting room experience, will cover it ad nauseam and then cover it again. Of course, “fear sells” so both the news stations and politicians running for office have seized upon the issue to show how serious-minded they are. Of course, many of these are the same politicians who:

– allowed the sequestration cuts go into play which harmed funding of the NIH, which is charged with research and overseeing the development of new epidemics and drugs. If you recall, the sequestration cuts were a fall back that were supposed to be so severe, that even members of Congress would rationally come to a budget agreement, which of course, they did not.

– would not approve the President’s Surgeon General nominee, because the candidate had the temerity to mention that ungoverned guns kill people. So, we needed to appoint an EBOLA Czar to synergize efforts, as we are sans Surgeon General.

Ironically, I have not seen either of these items mentioned in news reports, yet this is where something could have been done. It is akin to Congress not passing a bi-partisan bill posed in the spring to begin to address the VA problems that have built over the years and then when the problems bubbled over in Phoenix and elsewhere, saying how could you let this happen? A lesser bill was passed in the summer which can only do tip of the iceberg stuff.

EBOLA is a news story, but playing to people’s fears and inflaming them is not coverage. It is like the local weather folks scaring people over a coming storm. The greater story is in West Africa. The greater story is how politicians can fail to act then ask “how could you let that happen?” when something goes wrong. You had a chance to do something well in advance Mr. Congressman, why did you not vote to address this issue when something proactively could be done. That is a question worth asking.