Ducks in a Barrel

OK, it's not fair to attack the Tribune twice in a row--it's too easy, but I had to point this out. An editor was sleeping when working on an astute review of Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals. The lede is: Looking forward to your turkey dinner? Think twice. It's time, argues Jonathan Safran Foer, to stop lying to ourselves.
How smart do you have to be to know that you need to change this if it's running the Monday after Thanksgiving? Why not change it to: Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey?... The editor had heard that you're supposed to cut from the bottom, but I guess never learned to change the top if it's not applicable any more
It was written by LA Times Staffer Susan Salter Reynolds, published in the Times on Nov. 8, when readers (there must still be readers, right?) were looking forward to their Thanksgiving meals. To read the original review, click here.

All solutions are individual.

That's what I learned from reading the Chicago Tribune today, specifically, a little wrap-around page touting itself. But wasn't it preaching to the choir? It should be boasting to people who don't have the newspaper in their hands.

First problem: A pizza deliveryman was mugged and carjacked. Solution: "...people from as far away as South Korean and Germany sent in more than $16,000" so he could return to his pizza route, which I would bet doesn't supply him with health insurance. But that's not mentioned.

The second problem: A reporter wrote about a family living in a storage faculty. Solution: the "generosity of friends, family and Tribune readers touched by their troubles" provided money to put the family up in a motel.

Whew. Problem solved. Don't look to the left or right to see if there's anybody else homeless.

Third problem: A kid was in foster care and he got himself more than $1 million in scholarship offers. I remember reading about this kid. It was a feel-good story. It was the kind of story to make you think, Why don't all the kids pull themselves up by their bootstraps?

Also of note: The Tribune tells us it is "[s]hining a light on the persistent and often ignored problem of youth violence...." Persistent? Yes. Ignored? By whom? Not by the kids who are killed each year and their families. Not by people who live in violent neighborhoods.

Everything was off today. Ask Amy said that doctors should always be called by their titles because of their expertise. Hell, I'm an expert and my students call me by my first name. This is America, talk-show-etiquette America, where everyone has a first name but maybe not even a last. I call some of my doctors by their first names. Sometimes I have to force myself because of all the years of calling doctors doctors but if they call me by my first name, I do the same, especially if they're 20 years younger.

But we subscribe and we read the Tribune and it does give us some information about the city. And suburbs. Even though it is so so embarrassing how every other story seems to be based on a TV show. We can't be treated like real adults; we have to be able to relate our news to broadcast (or digital?) fictional dramas and comedies. We are amusing ourselves to death.

Which is the title of a book by Neil Postman, in which he writes: "What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism."

...and now Pap smears...

["Curiouser and curiouser."]

Holy Toledo! Now we don't need Pap smears as often. Have we been (the equivalent) of navel-gazing in the past, getting ourselves checked out too often? Our society is paranoid about cancer. Screenings make us feel like we're doing something, like we're being (that horrible corporate word) pro-active. As Sen. Arlen Spector told the New York Times, That is curious.
The past recommendation had been for young women to have Pap smears three years after becoming sexually active. Now the guidelines are to wait until age 21, no matter when a girl started having sex. The numbers bear this out: only two new cases per million teens (15 to 19 years old) per year in the U.S. What if you are one of the two girls? Everything makes sense, statistically, but not if you're one of the statistics.
The old tension between the individual vs. the community.
Cervical cancer is slow-growing, and pre-cancerous conditions often don't turn into cancer. Surgery for the pre-cancerous conditions could lead to premature births, says the Times.
This is the same thinking that went into the decision to recommend mammograms less often. The mammograms picked up non-cancerous tumors, which led to biopsies and more tests, for nothing, I guess you could say. And anxiety. Everyone is worried about our anxiety. I think most women would vote for a little surgery and anxiety so that their anxiety about cancer would be lessened. At least most women who have the choice.
A student of mine this fall thinks she has mono but can't afford health insurance or a visit to a doctor. She assured me last night she was no longer contagious. But she wasn't absolutely sure about the diagnosis, which had been delivered by a guess-timating nurse.
We all need the health insurance coverage that our federal elected officials get. Don't we deserve that?

Everything They Told Us Is Wrong...

...or at least it seems so. Now they say that self-exams aren't necessary and that you don't need a mammogram until age 40. I'll have more about this. In the meantime, you can read the study and recommendations here.
If you found your cancer via under-40 mammogram or breast self-exam, please comment! Of course, all comments are welcome, by survivors and non-, as long as you're a real person, not a computer program.
Meanwhile, Our Bodies Our Blog concurs with the guidelines, and explains why, providing important history and perspective, with excellent links. Check it out.