common sense…

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…apparently isn’t all that common.

Ifyou were sitting there thinking it would be really funny to tweet a message to one of the major airlines that could potentially viewed as a threat to national security, think again.  And I would argue there’s nothing funny about “joking” about terrorism or airlines given the events of 9/11.

Apparently, a 14 year old girl thought it would be a riot.  She tweeted the following to American Airlines:

@QueenDemetriax: @AmericanAir hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.

Naturally, American Airlines swiftly responded and quickly ruined the joke.

I highly doubt the FBI will be laughing…

our misfearing culture

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It has been said that we fear that which we do not know and do not understand.  But all too often, we engage in behavior known as “misfearing” – the term used to describe the human tendency to fear instinctively rather than factually.  Misfearing is pervasive in our culture, and its consequences on our collective health are staggering.

In February, Dr Lisa Rosenbloom touched on the subject of misfearing with regards to women’s health in a perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine.  A cardiologist by trade, Rosenbloom took an informal poll of her patients, asking them which health condition they thought was the number one killer of women.  Many of her female patients accurately reported heart disease to be the leading cause of death for women.  A fair number incorrectly said breast cancer.  One of her patients, a woman with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, said “I know the right answer is heart disease, but I’m still going to say breast cancer.”

The truth is that heart disease takes the lives of more women each year than all types of cancer combined, that it is in many ways preventable, and that despite what many women believe, multivitamins and antioxidants do not reduce the risk.  However, all the facts in the world cannot sway the opinion of a person who misfears, who determines their sense of risk based on not fact but feeling.  Certainly, there is some amount of ignorance involved, some amount of misunderstanding from patients or a general lack of knowledge.  I’m not implying that patients are not intelligent human beings, but rather physicians historically have done a particularly poor job of educating their patients.  But with more and more information available to patients at their very fingertips in the nanosecond or two it takes to use Google on a smartphone, where has our collective misfearing come from?

For breast cancer, the availability of that information may be the very problem.  As a society, we are constantly bombarded by health messages, and women in particular are assaulted by advertisements from groups like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which seems to have trademarked the color pink.  Women are constantly hearing about breast cancer and the importance of screening mammograms.  Many physicians view a woman at age forty as beginning her “right of passage” by obtaining the first screening mammogram.  There is no doubt that the message out there solidly directed at American women is to fear breast cancer, a message so pervasive that when the US Preventative Services Task Force recommended decreasing the frequency of mammography, there was a public outcry among doctors, women’s health experts, and women themselves.   Rosenbloom goes on to discuss how pervasive the fear of breast cancer is in our culture, asking

Have pink ribbons and Races for the Cure so permeated our culture that the resulting female solidarity lends mammography a sacred status? 

Rosenbloom goes on to create a greater argument surrounding misfearing, culture, and personal identity with breast cancer as her prime example, but misfearing is far more prevalent than only women’s health issues.  Decades of research on risk perception have revealed the factors that feed our misfears, including those  that are big, dramatic, memorable, or constantly on our minds.  Misfearing is the reason that many of us horde guns to protect ourselves from random, senseless acts of violence that the media portrays as widespread, while we simultaneously fail to protect ourselves by buckling our seat belts.  Similarly, misfearing is to blame for those who refuse to fly for fear that the plane may crash but do not realize they are far more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the local grocery store.  We fear terrorists attacks and yet 15 percent of our population smokes regularly, misfearing our risks of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Perhaps the best example of misfearing comes from the controversy over autism and the belief that vaccines are to blame.  The rising anti-vaccination movement has concluded that the dramatic increase in autism diagnoses is directly linked to childhood vaccines, citing evidence that is dubious at best and has been discredited by every respectable scientific and medical society.  The same anti-vaxxer movement has been blamed for a rise in outbreaks of disease like measles and mumps, diseases that were considered eradicated in the recent past.  How did this come to be?  Simply put, diseases like measles and mumps have left our nation’s collective consciousness due to the incredible effectiveness of vaccines.  Unlike our parents and grandparents generation, who grew up in a time when childhood disease like measles, mumps, and polio had devastating, if not deadly consequences, a new generation of parents has been immune to the highly contagious infectious disease of our not so distant past and have instead come to fear autism’s devastating diagnosis.  Despite the evidence that vaccines do not cause autism yet protect children from deadly disease, parents continue to make the utterly baffling choice to refuse vaccines anyway.  The culprit here? Misfearing – and it’s leading to a deadly public health threat.

Rosenbloom laments that there isn’t much we can do about misfearing.  We can educate individuals to change the perception of their individual risk.  We can craft laws and regulations based on fact rather than feeling.  But while education and regulation in the world can sometimes nudge us toward behaviors that promote our health, they unfortunately cannot tell us what to believe.  Before we can reduce our own risk, we have to believe it exists in the first place.

every day Americans

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I’ve been known to get a little political on this blog every so often, and I fully admit to a more liberal stance on most issues although I like to think I’m fiscally more conservative.  Most of my friends are of the same political persuasion, with a few notable exceptions (including most of my family), so when heated political issues come up or election seasons comes around – it does sometimes feel like an “us versus them” battleground.  Then I saw this picture on Twitter the other day, and I started thinking (yet again) about what a mess our political system is and how it really doesn’t serve the very people who it’s supposed to.

I mean… what are we actually fighting for if in the end, it doesn’t actually help us out?

politics for every day American people

wait… what do you do again?

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Ever feel like no one else understands your job?  I will fully admit that when people tell me they are in “consulting” or “marketing”, I often have no idea what they are talking about.  If your job title doesn’t actually explain what you do – for example, teacher or lawyer – then I’m pretty much in the dark.

The feeling that other people have no idea what you do for a living stings a little bit more when the person who is clueless is one of your parents.  My job is fairly easy for my mother to grasp (surgeon), but I’m guessing she gets a little confused when it comes to what my two sisters do.  But don’t worry if mom or dad doesn’t understand your job title… you’re not alone.

35% of parents don’t understand what their adult child does for a living.

Yup… let that one sink in for a minute.  So if mom or dad does understand your job… consider yourself lucky.  And if not, don’t sweat it.

A Roman uprising?

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Since it’s almost April, seemed like a good time to update the top countries for the week and for all-time!

For the week: The top five for the week are once again almost identical to the top five all time viewers.  The Latin contingent returned with Mexico popping back on the list, while the Eastern Bloc represented with Romania and Russia.  Only Sweden represented Scandinavia this week.

For all-time: While Indonesia briefly held a spot in the top 30, it fell hard from grace in the last two months.  That said, the Asian-Pacific group continued to represent with Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia all in the top 30.  The Latin Contingent lost Argentina as it fell out of the top 30, but Brazil gained three spots and Mexico held steady.  The other big mover this time around was Italy (paisano!) also up 3 spots.  Finland joined its Scandinavian neighbors on the list, although Norway and Denmark both slipped one spot.  The Eastern Bloc held steady with Croatia up two spots and Romania rejoining the list, though Poland continued its slide by falling two.

As always, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my viewers.  It’s been a crazy few months, and I hope to get back to blogging a lot more soon!

Past week:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. Philippines
  7. Italy
  8. Mexico
  9. Netherlands
  10. Switzerland
  11. Belgium
  12. India
  13. South Africa
  14. Romania
  15. Malaysia
  16. France
  17. Sweden
  18. Spain
  19. Maldives
  20. Russia

All Time:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. South Africa
  8. India
  9. France
  10. Belgium
  11. Sweden
  12. Philippines
  13. Mexico
  14. New Zealand Italy
  15. Spain New Zealand
  16. Denmark Spain
  17. Italy Denmark
  18. Ireland
  19. Malaysia Brazil
  20. Singapore
  21. Greece Malaysia
  22. Brazil Greece
  23. Norway Switzerland
  24. Poland Norway (tied with Switzerland)
  25. Austria
  26. Switzerland Poland
  27. Indonesia Finland
  28. Turkey Croatia
  29. Argentina Turkey (tied with Croatia)
  30. Croatia Romania

MBTA late night service starts tonight

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Yes, I’ve gone on the record as saying that late night service on the MBTA is a horrible idea until the system is better funded.  Yes, I still contend that it’s a terrible idea, especially considering the MBTA just announced another potential round of fare hikes.

But I also fully support the idea of extended hours. albeit with a well-funded system that fixed many of the current problems that plague the MBTA.  Therefore, I fully intend on supporting the expanded hours when I’m out and about in the city late at night.

Bostonians, the MBTA asked what you wanted, and you told them extended hours.  For once, the MBTA listened and is giving you a one-year trial period.  If ridership is lackluster, the program will get the axe next March.  In the words of the great sociologist RuPaul, “Don’t fuck it up!”

Marriage equality in the Great Lakes State

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A federal judge in Michigan today ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote that “The court finds the Michigan Marriage Amendment impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable state interest.”

Citing similar rulings in Texas, Kentucky, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, Friedman’s ruling affirms that Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, keeping in line with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Unlike the rulings in states like Texas and Virginia, Friedman’s ruling has not been stayed pending appeal, meaning same-sex couples in Michigan would likely be able to marry relatively soon.  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Friday evening he’s filed an emergency request for Friedman’s order to be stayed and appealed.

michigan gay marriage ban