I think democracy’s undermined when those who own newspapers fill them with trivia rather than real issues.—Ken Livingstone
News, valid information that people need to know, too easily becomes trivia in our world. I look through the headlines this morning and struggle to choose a topic that is appropriate for this space. It’s not that there isn’t plenty to talk about, but sometimes the volume becomes so much that each additional voice begins to mute the whole.
Granted, I could keep talking about the #Snowmaggedon that is plaguing the East coast. I do genuinely feel sympathetic toward the people who live there. However, to write about an event like that when one is not actually experiencing it at the moment risks turning the whole story into trivia. Our eyes become tired of seeing the subject in headline after headline. We begin to assume that we’ve already consumed all the important information and ignore the rest.
At the same time, because of the sheer volume of information flooding the pipeline, there are a number of stories that become trivial simply because they don’t stand out enough to grab our attention. These stories fall under the category of, “oh yeah, this happened, too, but no one really noticed.” In newspaper terms, it becomes page six fodder. No one reads page six.
So, as I’m going through the headlines this morning, let me share with you some stories that you might have missed but that are probably more important than we realize. I’ll just give you a synopsis and then a link to the full article. These deserve to not be relegated to trivia.
Hidden peanut connection kills Minnesota man. If you’ve ever been around anyone with a peanut allergy, you know how crazy careful they are not only about not eating peanuts themselves, but staying away from anything that has come into contact with peanuts. Peanut allergies are one of those against which the body has limited immunity. Each negative reaction takes away from that immunity and when it’s gone, there’s no replacing it. This young man was being careful, but ate a chocolate from a manufacturer who also processes peanut candies. While none of the chocolates in the box contained peanuts, and he had eaten other chocolates from that box without a problem, the one he grabbed that morning was enough to kill him. Read the story here.
The global refugee crisis hasn’t stopped. One of the dangers of this election year is that when an issue stops being the talking point of the moment, it is promptly forgotten. A couple of weeks ago, the refugee crisis had everyone’s attention, mostly because no one in the US wanted to actually deal with the situation. Now that our political attention is literally stuck in the snow, we’ve stopped talking about the continuing waves of people flooding Greece so heavily that the EU is seriously considering, get this, building a fence around Greece to keep refugees from entering mainland Europe. People are dying on a daily basis. The humanitarian crisis is more severe than ever. What we treat like trivia now will come back to haunt us. Here’s the story from the Washington Post.
There is a superbug waiting to kill you. Getting competing drug manufacturers to agree on anything, especially government involvement, is nearly impossible but that is exactly what happened yesterday. 83 companies, including Pfizer and Merck, signed a declaration urging governments around the world to take action in combating drug-resistant infections. The bug that has them most concerned at the moment is called MCR-1. The bug was found in China late last year and has since popped up in Denmark as well. There is no existing drug to combat it and the potential fatality rate makes last year’s Ebola scare look like a tea party. You know it’s serious when drug makers are asking governments for help. Read up on the matter here.
China is still a horrible totalitarian regime. As trade relations with China have normalized over the past few years, we tend to forget that the Chinese government still has one of the worst records on human rights in the world. Recently, they’ve been rounding up dissidents and human rights attorneys and charging them with “subversion of state power.” People continue to disappear off the streets, and the crackdown isn’t limited to Chinese nationals. A Swedish citizen employed by a human rights NGO has been arrested as well. We have to ask ourselves whether the cheap electronics and fashion knockoffs are worth turning a blind eye to this tragedy. The Wall Street Journal has the story.
Skin cancer is five times more deadly when you’re pregnant. Melanoma is a personal issue for me because my father died of complications from melanoma, even after doctors initially said he had a 95% chance of beating it. Now, a study published this week shows that when melanoma is found in pregnant women, or within a year of pregnancy, they are five times more likely to die. Understand, this isn’t in older women, this is among women under the age of 50, women who are still very much in their childbearing years, women who, under more normal conditions, shouldn’t have to worry about the disease for another 20 years or so. The test group was small, but the results were strong enough to be frightening. Read the story here and then, if you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor.
I’m stopping there because my intent is not to totally depress everyone, but to emphasize just how much information, news we really need, is being missed, relegated to the trivia bin of social media’s short attention span. I understand, sometimes the glut of “bad” news is so heavy that we have to turn it off for a while to prevent our own plunge into depression. The world is not hopeless, though. The more you know, the better equipped you are to do something. Watch labels. Talk to your doctor. Avoid certain Chinese imports. You don’t have to be radical to make a difference. We just need to be aware.
And if you were expecting a trivia game from me this morning, I’m sorry. Maybe we’ll do something fun tomorrow.