Hackers reveal drug use information


Simone Biles was involved in a recent hacking scandal that released private medical information about Olympic athletes.

Russian computer hackers released the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Athlete Database, which reported that Biles, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, were given medical exemptions to use banned drugs, though there was no misuse of these drugs.

These documents demonstrate that Biles tested positive for a drug that was banned on the WADA’s list, but she did not misuse this drug.

The International Gymnastics Federation refused to comment on this so far, but Biles spoke out about these leaks on Twitter.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-59-45-am“I have ADHD and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid,” she wrote. “Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so as fair play is critical to sport and is very important to me.”

“The WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act,” the World Anti-Doping Agency’s director general said.

Fancy Bear, the hackers of the WADA’s Athlete Database, warned that they will release more medical information about other athletes to show that today’s sport is contaminated and the world is ignorant of this.

The media reports on a story like this because the 2016 Olympics has just finished, and doping athletes are a highly talked about subject when it comes to the Olympics.

This private medical information that was leaked is important to report on because sport is supposed to be equally fair for every athlete, but these leaks prove that sport is somewhat skewed or rigged.

The media reports on stories like this to prove that society is unaware of many of the underlying truths of the large numbers of athletes that use banned drugs.

Time change and your health


It is that time of the year were just like blooming flowers and college breaks, another rite of spring is upon us: Daylight Savings Time, which started at 2 a.m. Sunday.

This past weekend, almost every news channel dedicated some time or space to this event; besides Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas, places where time doesn’t change.

Starting last Sunday at 1:59:59 a.m., clocks automatically turned to 3 a.m. making Americans lose one hour of sleep, but an extra hour of sunlight in the evening to take a walk, exercise, enjoy the outdoors or take a nap instead.

News coverage from various sources provided different theories about where Daylight Savings Time originated. CNN reported that the government started using it during World War I to copy the Germans, who were doing it to save on fuel. CBS News stated that Benjamin Franklin originated it. The Huffington Post reported that it started back in the 1800s with a New Zealander named George Vernon Hudson who proposed the idea specifically in 1895.

This might take away some of the credibility of the story, but since the origin of it wasn’t the main thing presented in those articles, that difference didn’t create a major problem.

However, what should be pointed out here is the way in which every news organization provided the same information about the risks of Daylight Savings Time.

Without getting too scientific and managing the medical jargon in a pretty good way, the news media explained to people what they are being exposed to and how they can prevent those issues from occurring to them.

Traffic accidents, racing electricity demand, an increment of strokes and heart attacks are just a few examples of the negative results from gaining one more hour of light; and these aren’t just facts. There are plenty of research studies and analyses that support those statements and this is what drags the public’s attention.

CBS News did an amazing job. The day before the clocks “spring forward” they released an article where they explained, simply but clearly, the five ways in which Daylight Savings Time messes with our health.

Each reason was supported with an expert quote or with a dated study and a picture to make it more interactive, it was both entertaining and professional.

CBS News coverage is an example of how things should be done. It addressed the topic from a creative angle, highlighted its importance and translated the tedious information into an ordinary and understandable language so people could enjoy and learn while reading.

Soccer star donates brain for research


Articles concerning topics on both sports and science tend to either be doping focused or either too scientifically written, exclusively catering to a selected few. Rarely are there sport science stories that appeal to a larger audience, and so when there happens to be one that catches public attention it’s always worth taking a look why articles like these draw so much attention.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 2.48.24 PMBrandi Chastain, former U.S. national soccer team member, just announced that she will be donating her brain to Boston University for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) research.

Chastain rose to fame after scoring the shootout goal in the 1999 World Cup, ousting China in the final match.

Currently, in her late 40s, Chastain is assuming the role of a mother as well as that of a soccer coach in her community.

After the announcement, Chastain has become the second national soccer team member to donate her brain for research. Soccer players, similar to other athletes like boxers and football players are prone to concussions and minor impacts in mild traumatic brain injuries that result to CTE. With Chastain’s contribution to CTE research, it will be of significant value for the entire soccer community.

It was The New York Times that released this story on Chastain and I commend The Times for being able to present the article to its audience in such an empowering manner.

The article does not only shed light on how Chastain willingly wanted to contribute to her sport in her own little way, but also puts into context different issues relating to CTE risk, all by doing so in an educational way.

The article also included a question and answer response, which did enhance and strengthen the article content all the more.

The issue of woman empowerment was taken onto another step when it was linked onto how recent developments are made to benefit female sports icons like Chastain herself.

‘Devil’s drug’ needs media attention


Since 2014, the designer drug flakka has silently terrorized the streets of South Florida. With the number of users rising throughout the U.S., flakka needs national media attention now more than ever.

Flakka is a highly addictive synthetic drug. According to drugsabuse.gov, side effects include paranoia, hyperstimulation, and hallucinations that can lead to “violent aggression and self-injury. The drug has been linked to deaths by suicide and heart attack.”

Other side effects include super-human strength, a likely result of an adrenaline rush. Also users are known to strip naked due to a massive rise in body temperatures associated with the drugs consumption.

Flakka’s biggest threat is that the U.S. population is under the assumption that the drug’s usage is contained to South Florida, where it is by far the most concentrated. Because of this, news media coverage has been vastly limited to local South Florida news organizations such as The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, and The Sun Sentinel.

Flakka usage is spreading quickly and the lack of media coverage leaves many people in danger, particularly young people in poor urban neighborhoods. Flakka is particularly accessible to this group because it’s so cheap. Without any education from the national press, thousands of people are in danger. According to Forbes.com, flakka usage has spread to Chicago, Texas, Kentucky and Ohio. The drug is only growing more popular, especially with the lack of education nationwide.

One example of the grave disparities in flakka’s news media coverage compared to other drugs was in early 2014 when the DEA officially categorized it as a Schedule 1 drug. Despite the importance of this, the news did not make any major national headlines.

Less traditional forms of media have been more prominent in the coverage of the drug. YouTube has a variety of videos about flakka. Some videos were educational, while the majority were recordings of people high on the drug. These videos had thousands of views, with some of them even having millions. The population clearly has an interest in flakka and is seeking out more information.

The need for public education about flakka is evident. While flakka is not a nationwide issue yet, it is already well on its way. The duty is on the news media to provide coverage about this silent killer because they’re the best equipped to handle the potential crisis.

The bathroom bill problem


The Senate of South Dakota has recently voted to approve a “bathroom bill.” The bathroom bill states that students would have to use the bathroom based on their “chromosomes and autonomy” at birth, rather than what they identify with now. This bill not only attacks the LGBT community, but also completely discriminates against transgender students.

State representative Fred Deutsch, who was in favor of the bill, stated this is necessary in order to protect the “bodily privacy rights” of “biologic boys and girls” and that if transgender students were uncomfortable with this, they could use private accommodations. He refused to do a follow-up interview with Time magazine on this statement.

Time provided a first-hand example of how this law could effect transgender students when they interviewed Rebecca Dodds, the mother of a transgender boy who had recently graduated high school in South Dakota.

Her son stated that the idea of using the girl’s rest room was so uncomfortable for him, he would avoid using the bathroom the entire day. Because of this, he contracted multiple urine infections and had other health-related issues throughout his high school career.

The identity struggle for transgender students is a difficult enough issue that having a law to further isolate them from normalcy would only contribute to their existing insecurities. While conservative America considers the sensitivity of the standardized “norm”, liberal America considers the sensitivity of all.

I believe Time magazine did an excellent job providing a non-biased, yet informative, opinion on this current issue. They provided opinions from both the pro and con sides, while further examining how this law would affect transgender people and the LGBT community outside of the school system.

While much of our American population is socially conservation, our younger generations are growing be more and more liberal. The media needs to continue to report these issues with sensitivity and compassion as our society progresses into acceptance.

Water crisis hits Flint residents


Much like Ferguson and Baltimore, Flint was a city plagued with crime and challenges that was forgotten by its own nation until tragedy struck and lives were lost or endangered.

This time, however, lives were not lost at the hand of a law enforcement officer exerting illegal force. Lives were lost at the hand of the State of Michigan, which failed to meet a basic need of its residents: clean and safe water.

This week, in the latest in a long series of developments in the story, news reports are saying Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration knew of potential links between the Flint water problems and Legionnaires’ disease.

Two years ago, city officials decided to switch Flint’s source of water from the Detroit River to a new system that would not be ready for use for two years. In the meantime, the government decided to use the water from the Flint River as the city’s source. The highly corrosive river water transported by the city’s lead pipes produced contaminated water in the homes of Flint residents. Although tests proved otherwise, the city and state governments assured residents that the water was safe and drinkable.

Now, two years later, residents of Flint have fallen ill. Flint’s water issue has gone from local media coverage to national and even international coverage.

The media coverage of Flint focuses mainly on what went wrong and images of the water itself rather than on resolutions of the problem. Many of the news stories on Flint show visual footage of the toxic, brown water coming from resident’s tap. They also explain the failures of the state and local government that lead to such a catastrophe. Residents tell of the unwanted changes in their lives.

While these are very important components to the story, I think the more important question is how this problem will be solved. Although the media have shown large donations of bottled water going to Flint, that is only a short-term fix. The media should focus more on when and how the lead pipes carrying the water will be replaced and how the work will be funded.

There should be more of a focus on how the problem will be fixed in the long run so that a crisis like this never happens again.

Zika virus: Fearing the unknown


Every news station, newspaper and social media network alike has been fixated over Zika.

Zika is a virus, native to Africa and found in South America, that has wildly spread to Latin America, the Caribbean and some places in the United States. While the side effects aren’t life threatening (flu-like symptoms, pink eye and fever) the virus is most dangerous to pregnant women.

If women are infected with the virus while pregnant, their child has a high likelihood of being born with microcephaly. Microcephaly stunts head growth early on in fetal development, causing the child to be born with an abnormally small head and metal disabilities.

The World Health Organization has advised pregnant women not to travel to Latin American countries. They have also advised women who live in Latin American or South American countries not to get pregnant for at least two years.

Recently it was reported in Texas that the disease can be sexually transmitted, which exponentially increases the spread of the viral epidemic.

As a young person, student and someone who cares about my future health, the media have refrained from answering what I think is the most important question: If I am infected with the Zika virus and I want to have children in the future, will they be born with this defect? I know a virus’s symptoms run their course, but will the effects of the virus affect future children?

Do we fear this virus because it is new or because of how it could affect us?

All the news reports are the same and, as informed citizens, the media should make efforts to report on different aspects of the same topic rather than reiterate the well-known facts.

While it is understandable that we do not know enough about the spreading virus, the media should make serious efforts to investigate the case and report information about the disease as fast as possible.

Zika virus: Should we fear the worst?


The recent Zika virus outbreak has caused concern around the globe and continues to dominate headlines and newscasts each day.

Zika is a virus transmitted through infected mosquitoes in tropical regions, namely South and Central America. The disease is most problematic for pregnant women, as the virus has been linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly.

Any person who turns on a television or a computer to stay up-to-date on current events can tell you that Zika is spreading rapidly.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, was recently quoted as saying, “It isn’t as if it’s turning around and dying out, it’s getting worse and worse as the days go by.”

Comments like Fauci’s, which many Zika-related stories seem to be filled with, have the ability to spark fear in millions of people around the globe.

However, a recent article by CNN Specialist Dr. Tom Frieden paints the virus in a different light.

According to Frieden, who is a director at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  “from the information we know now, widespread transmission in the contiguous United States appears to be unlikely.”

And while the Zika threat definitely should not be taken lightly, Frieden also states that “science doesn’t have a crystal ball, but the CDC has great laboratories and the world’s best disease detectives.”

Frieden’s article highlights one main point: Zika virus is a serious issue, but it is important to put a health crisis like this into perspective.

The likelihood of many Americans being infected by the virus is small, and the CDC has also dealt with serious crises like Ebola and avian influenza in past years.

The media tend to take disease outbreaks and cover the situation in excess, causing people to assume that each and every new disease has the potential to exterminate humanity.

It is undoubtedly important to do your research and stay informed during an outbreak. But, before you let Zika virus dictate how you live your life, keep your eyes open for lesser known facts and opinions that the media may not put on the front page.

UM inches closer to ending diabetes


As a type 1 diabetic, any news of treatments to serious diseases or improvements in healthcare catches my attention. However, it also heightens my skepticism on news coverage.

This past weekend my mother handed me a magazine that is designed to assist diabetics through their daily routines. There was a story documenting a breakthrough treatment — and possible cure — of type 1 diabetes that was discovered at the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute.

The treatment involved a surgery that transplanted islet cells into the body of a woman, Wendy Peacock, after decades of suffering from type 1 diabetes.

Islet cells are responsible for producing insulin in the body; type 1 diabetics suffer from their body’s immune system destroying these cells, which regulate blood sugar.

This surgery has relieved the patient from having to inject herself with insulin everyday, multiple times a day.

Since this is a breakthrough that can lead to the possible end of a disease that affects around 1.25 million Americans and countless others across the world, I figured that there would be more publicity surrounding it. Well, as far as I can tell, there have been a few articles from The Miami Herald and other medical websites that I have seen online, and some local news channels, like Local 10 News and Channel 7 News, but it has not made its way into mainstream media and news.

Maybe it is old news and that is the reason why I am not seeing the being covered more, but its important news and I think the bigger problem is that news organizations need to broaden their definition of what is considered “newsworthy” because we are saturated with the same information that is being re-circulated for days until another piece of information is released and then the process repeats itself.

Most of the news we are receiving now on TV is about the results of the Iowa caucuses and speculation on the upcoming New Hampshire caucuses. Or on Spanish television, like Telemundo, they are constantly talking about the actress, Kate del Castillo, who is allegedly involved with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

I am beginning to feel that news organizations are becoming more and more fueled by entertainment and ratings, rather than content and getting new, useful information to the public. Before it turns into an uncontrollable circus act, news organizations need to diversify their stories and give their audiences different types of information to process.

When you can have two


Last Thursday, China lifted its one child policy that had applied to this country for three decades. Now, couples can choose to have a second child without fear for various punishments including fines and getting fired.

Loosening a previously tight policy for population control has attracted worldwide attention. The UK’s BBC ran a topic section for consecutive days focusing on termination of the one-child policy that tries to interpret the reason why government ceased this decades-long policy. The New York Times also writes about Chinese new policy change and how this policy had demographically shaped China.

The policy change also triggered heated debate within China. Some people argue that banning the one child policy foreshadows Chinese government’s failure of re-structuring its economic development mode. For decades, the Chinese government has devoted effort to reconstructing the Chinese economy from labor-driven to technology and service driven. Recently, the Chinese economy has slowed and many people attribute the sluggish economy to the scarcity of cheap labor.

Others point out that, though families can choose to have a second child, there are still some barriers preventing unmarried women to have their own children. Some articles even cite some important data to demonstrate that, even couples which have the choice to have a second child, a very small percentage of them will actually give birth to another child due to mounting pressure to raise a child because child birth and rearing require tremendous time and money commitments.

I think the new policy will bring some changes to China. At least for coming years, it will not be rare to see a child who has a sibling. Nevertheless, the change will slight, but not tremendously elevate the total amount of Chinese population. Nowadays more and more people are prioritizing quality over quantity.  If parents have fewer kids, they can better apply their limited money and time to cultivate their children and have some spare time to enjoy their own life, rather than strain their energy to feed many mouths and merely make ends meet.

One woman’s journey


The New York Times is well known for great journalism and captivating stories. The Well Blog, linked to its website, provides fresh health-based content with one woman’s journey in particular.

While Suleika Jaouad is not a journalist, she now writes a documentation of her life for the NYTimes about her post-leukemia recovery journey. Her stories are linked together with a title, “Life, Interrupted,” before the subject of her next post.

Her posts began on May 2, 2013, up until her most recent post Oct. 15, 2015. At the age of 22, she was diagnosed with leukemia and describes her life as coming to a halt. After many months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she overcame the odds and began recovering.

She believes that this was due in part by her 100 day challenge. Her family created this challenge, in which each member would do something different for 100 days. Jaouad’s mother, for instance, began painting a picture everyday for 100 days which she would show to Jaouad. Her closed-off father wrote 100 childhood memories in a book for her. Jaouad began writing in her journal, no matter how irritated or tired she was, she made sure to write everyday for those 100 days.

After her recovery, she wanted to make something of the “halt” in her life. Thus, she is embarking on a journey across America to find herself with her dog, Oscar.

Her heart-warming story and journey brings a beautiful chain of first person blog posts that change the way journalism can affect others.

This kind of journalism entails a good story, and the sole writer to be a person of that story. Jaouad, while not a journalist, has painted a picture of her story for all of her readers and in that way, she has shed new light on feature writing.

Her reporting on her personal journey inspires others and informs them of what really happens during cancer treatment, and of the struggles of catching up with life after.

This kind of journalism provides an interesting story, but written in the actual person’s point of view, which gives readers a different perspective and would not be the same if done differently.

Martin Shkreli, ‘most-hated man’


This week, Martin Shkreli, the 32-year old CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York,  has earned the title “most-hated man in America.”

Turing Pharmaceuticals bought a drug called Daraprim, the drug can fight toxoplasmosis, which infects people whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS.  However, the company raised the price from $13.50 to $750 for one tablet. According to the latest announcement, the increase of price has been rescinded under the pressure of public opinion.

The conflict was rising when presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said on her Twitter account on Monday:  “Price-gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on.”

However, Shkreli has used television interviews and his own social media account to defend  the company and himself.

He told The New York Times earlier, “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business.”

Recently, in the interview by CNBC, he said that the infection Daraprim is used to treat had been ignored by the pharmaceutical industry because there was little money to be made.  He claimed that the money will be able to educate doctors about the disease, improve delivery to patients, and develop better drugs for the infection.

There is no hope for saving his reputation, especially due to his way of responding on Twitter.

He wrote on Twitter on Monday, “It seems like the media immediately points a finger at me so I point one back at ‘em, but not the index or pinkie.”

He also said that Twitter seems to be a great medium for socialist and liberal rage and declared once again the price of drug will be a great thing for society. According to CNN Money, Shkreli was fired when he was the CEO of Retrophin. The reason he was fired, in addition to his poor management skills, was his irritating Twitter usage.

The whole issue is causing biotechnology stocks to fall across the board, involving the lively attention of the government, politicians, the healthcare field, and the financial industry. At the same time, the explosion of social media and TV networks have also made it a hot topic around the world.

Fiorina will damage women’s rights


On Wednesday, the second GOP Debate took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, enhanced her image and campaign during the debate. Fiorina attacked Planned Parenthood on many occasions, she said that defunding Planned Parenthood should be a priority. Her reasons were grossly inaccurate. She described a falsification of events that took place in the videos that have recently been publicized. Fiorina’s graphic words were false. What actually took place in the videos was edited for dramatic effect.

Fiorina has fought for gender diversity in the workplace for most of her career, she claims to advocate for women’s rights and further our nation in gender equality. However, one of her tactics would ultimately hurt women.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would take away women’s rights to free sex education, free contraceptives and free-to-low cost medical attention. Planned Parenthood’s business is primarily built on women’s health, contraceptives and sex education, not solely abortions.

Women across the country use Planned Parenthood as their primary source of female healthcare, defunding it would leave many women in the dark. There is no such thing as getting rid of abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood would only get rid of safe abortions. The wire hanger is something women should never have to experience again.

New report on antibiotics in meat


Fast food chains claim to be actively improving the quality of food through their suppliers. While some are actually progressing, many well known and loved restaurant chains scored low ratings in a new report on the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry supplies. Some of these chains are found on campus.

Friends of Earth’s new report on the largest 25 fast food chains’ use of antibiotics, called “Chain Reaction,” attributes grades based on a restaurant’s antibiotic use policies and its application to which types of meat, the implementation and transparency of these policies to the public, and the actual amount of meat produced without antibiotics.

The two chains that received A grades were Chipotle and Panera Bread. These restaurants serve a majority of their meat without regular antibiotic use and have been doing so for a while, hoping to establish a precedent for other restaurant chains.

Chick-fil-A received a grade of B, while Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s received Cs.

Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Denny’s, Domino’s and Starbucks all received Fs, earning one out of 36 possible points established in the report.

Olive Garden, Papa John’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Applebee’s Sonic, Chili’s, Dairy Queen, and IHOP received F’s with no points at all, among other fast food restaurants.

The report brings the question to light: what have these low-scoring restaurants actually done to improve meat quality compared to their claims of progress?

Papa Johns’ slogan, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza,” seems false since their low grade was released. However, the company claims to eliminate artificial ingredients and additives and offer antibiotic-free chicken on their pizza by the first half of 2016.

Dunkin’ Donuts has a policy to improve meat quality, but no timeline for implementation, while Panera and Chipotle publicly affirm their meat standards without antibiotics.

The public holds a strong voice, being the sole consumers of these products. Since all of those restaurants hold Twitter and Facebook accounts in order to connect more with its customers, consumers have power to end harmful additives in our foods and raise awareness for our collective health.

By posting messages which not only contact the company, but can be seen by other social media users, ending the use of antibiotics starts with a direct approach towards these restaurant chains. Journalists can also use social media to attain commentary from the restaurants for their articles.

Will flu shot be effective this year?


With flu season right around the corner, the annual immunization debate has resurfaced. This season, health officials have something to prove after last year’s mishap.

According to NBC News, a new Type A strain of the flu appeared last year after vaccine doses were already brewed. This caused the vaccination to be less effective than in previous years.

Regardless of last year’s mishap, half of American’s didn’t receive the immunization anyway. Consequently, flu kills about 24,000 people a year in the United States.

Health officials have created alternative methods for receiving the vaccination besides the traditional shot, such as a nasal spray, a higher dose version for senior citizens and a needle-free injection for those who have an aversion to needles.

Although the alternative methods are accommodating, I don’t believe that they will influence an opponent of the immunization to change his mind. When it comes to immunizations, most individuals value their own opinion over that of a health official.

If health officials could prove the effectiveness and strategically market the immunization, opponents may comply. In order for health officials to strategically market the immunization, they would need to prove that the effects of the flu are dangerous and prevalent.

Hopefully, this year’s flu immunizations will protect against the new Type A strain and put a stop to 24,000 preventable deaths.

The controversy over vaccinations


One of the most controversial topics in the past few weeks has been whether or not the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks in the eyes of parents.

Although there are countless medical findings reporting that there is less than a one in one million chance of a person getting a severe or even fatal reaction, there are an increasing number of parents who rather not take the risk and decide to not get their children vaccinated.

When the majority of Americans hear about this rising issue, most people can not believe that anyone would even question whether or not vaccinations are necessary for children, who are more susceptible to various illness, or adults; however, there are several individuals who not only refuse to get vaccines for them or their children, but also blame vaccinations for serious illness such as autism, despite the fact there is no support to make that kind of connection.

It is because of this that thousands of Americans have written articles, posted on blogs, and even commented on Facebook warning parents to ignore this uncommon and, in many views, wrong approach to vaccinations.

Media sensationalism risks public health


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 20 measles outbreaks in the U.S. between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of this year, spread mainly among non-vaccinated individuals. These numbers are among the highest recorded since 1997.

The practice of vaccinating children has been on decline since a 1998 study from the lab of Andrew Wakefield was published claiming that vaccinations cause developmental disorders in children. The article was later retracted when it was discovered to be a dishonest study that violated research ethics.

Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain a link between childhood vaccinations and autism, including the measles vaccine and a vaccine called thimersosal.

The only study showing any association between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was the aforementioned 1998 study, which was not surprisingly funded by lawyers and parents wishing to sue vaccine manufacturers. That was not the only conflict of interest Wakefield did not disclose at the time of publication. The year before the study was published, Wakefield patented a measles vaccine with the potential to replace the combined vaccine that was customarily given.

Despite the small sample size and far-reaching conclusions in Wakefield’s publication, the media vastly publicized it. Vaccination rates dropped substantially as parents were frightened into believing that vaccinating their children put them at severe risk for Autism.

The media has a tendency toward sensationalism, in which it gives exaggerated coverage to insignificant content. “Media exploits vaccine scares firstly to promote fear and pity among their readers which moves media product,” said investigative journalist Brian Deer.

We are still paying the costs to public health of the media’s over-dramatic coverage of the single, fraudulent paper.

Do news media exacerbate the problem?


It’s an age-old question: can the news media be blamed for exacerbating an issue? Do the means by which an issue is covered or relayed to the public really affect the way the audience perceives an issue?

The answer is absolutely yes.

Numerous times throughout history, the media covered issues in such a way that caused unnecessary, misguided, and even angry reactions from the public.

When it comes to the “crisis” of Ebola in the United States, that is exactly what occurred.

In early October, the media released that the first case of Ebola had arrived in the United States, carried by a Liberian man named Thomas Duncan who had just returned from a trip to West Africa.

Duncan was hospitalized in Texas, where he died eight days after his diagnosis. While he was being treated, two of the nurses caring for him were infected with the disease, however they were treated successfully and declared safe.

When all of this started happening just over a month ago, every news media website, TV station, radio station, you name it, was reporting about it.

It was everywhere.

Naturally, people took to social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to spread the news and their feelings of terror. This only made the problem seem worse.

Pretty soon, Ebola was “the new plague” and people across the nation were terrified of catching it and ran the other way as soon as someone coughed or sneezed by them!

This fear was only worsened by the media exacerbating the issue and making it seem like Ebola was an airborne virus that one could catch at any moment, when in fact Ebola can only be transmitted through bodily fluids, blood and objects such as needles.

If the media hadn’t blown the Ebola issue way out of proportion and shared more of the facts with people before alerting everyone to take precautions, it wouldn’t have become such a huge issue.

But never fear! It appears the last known case of Ebola in the United States was just cured last night in NYC and our country is safe once more. That is, until the news media find another disease with which to scare everyone.

Media shape attitudes toward disabled


In 2010, the United States Census Bureau reported that 56.7 million Americans, or nearly one in five, are living with a disability. For comprising such a large portion of the population, people with disabilities and policy issues related to disability are under-represented in the media.

To make matters worse, when the media do include people with disabilities in their reporting, it is generally approached from one of two ways. Either it is suggested that people with disabilities should be pitied or the individual is portrayed as heroic. Stories often describe an individual who “struggles” with disability X, yet achieves something “remarkable.”

A recent story about a girl with cerebral palsy who won the title of Homecoming Queen is a case in point. The story emphasized that her winning was not the result of “pity” votes. The takeaway point seemed to be that it is remarkable that she won and legitimately at that.

Why should it be so surprising that she won?

In no way am I attempting to downplay the young lady’s accomplishment. Being named Homecoming Queen is certainly special and she certainly deserves all of the attention that surrounds being queen. Stories just shouldn’t be framed in a way that suggest to the public that succeeding while living with a disability is unusual or extraordinary.

The news media have a powerful role in creating perceptions and influencing the views of the public. Reporting that pities people with disabilities or on the other extreme deems them heroic for doing things not generally seen as heroic are an obstacle to the acceptance of people with disabilities into society.

The true killer in America


Public health has been in the news quite a bit lately, mostly due to the Ebola “scare” that has captivated Americans’ attention. Previously, of course, it was the swine flu and the bird flu.

However, everyone, including news organizations, seem to ignore the true threat to American health: Our food. The American diet is quite literally killing people and no one seems to notice or care.

Yes, everyone knows that McDonald’s is bad for you and that pizza won’t give you six-pack abs, but no one is talking about the loopholes contained within food that is generally considered healthy. Whole wheat bread can actually be chemically separated and put back together in order to sell more cheaply—with high fructose corn syrup added as well. This syrup suppresses insulin in your liver and therefore inhibits your body from knowing when it is full. Therefore you eat more.

So what? No big deal right? They have pills that can help with diabetes and coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, pills cannot cure these problems, they can only help symptoms. No news organization is investigating as to why that is the case. Pharmaceutical companies have billions to lobby with and do not want people to know the true cure: Eat like a caveman.

In clinical studies, a lifestyle and diet change was 40 percent more effective at treating diabetes than the most successful medication. Those with type two diabetes who adopted the Paleolithic diet (eating only what a caveman would eat as it came out of the ground) eliminated the disease from their body in a week.

We owe it to ourselves to be healthy. It needs to start with awareness via brave and insightful journalism.