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Variations | ‘I read the news today, oh boy’

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TODAY if there’s bad news you will, for sure, read/see/hear about it as it happens, when it happens. With or without the internet, however, we have always been biased toward bad news. News media exist primarily to inform us about the latest bad news.


Of course, even before Covid-19, most of the news — all over the world — was uniformly bad. But it seems to be really bad now.
In his 2013 book, “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” Rolf Dobelli wrote: “We are incredibly well informed yet we know incredibly little. Why? Because two centuries ago, we invented a toxic form of knowledge called ‘news.’ News is to the mind what sugar is to the body: appetizing, easy to digest — and highly destructive in the long run.”
OK. But surely we all need to know everything that is needed to know about Covid-19, and there are legitimate news media outlets providing much needed accurate information — including more bad news.
Here are some of them from New York City early this week:
“City Races to Get Vital Supplies”
“Victims Are Dying Without Loved Ones Close”
“It’s the ‘Wild West’ as Hospitals Vie for Masks”
“Crematories Run 24 Hours a Day”
“Key Utility Workers Live at Job Sites”
“With Businesses Shut, Burglaries Are on the Rise”
Those headlines are from the usually staid Wall Street Journal and not from the often hair-raising New York Post. (On its April 10th frontpage: “ISLE OF TEARS — Hart Island mass grave for COVID victims.” Stories from its April 9th issue included: “Oh sh-t! Coronavirus found in wastewater at higher levels than expected”; “Chicago woman killed while social-distancing outside 7-Eleven”; “Paramedic who retrieved body parts after 9/11 says coronavirus is worse.”)
In its March 23rd issue, The Wall Street Journal published a special report about the Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington state, where there had been 35 coronavirus deaths:
“It seemed a curious day for the Life Care Center to throw a Mardi Gras party.
“For one thing, Feb. 26 was actually Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras.
“More crucially, the nursing home was under orders to be in scrub-down mode due to a raft of respiratory problems among its residents. That same day, managers had ordered staff members to close the two dining rooms immediately, wipe down all common spaces and halt group activities.
“But the party went ahead. It was one of the facility’s biggest events of the year, spokesman Tim Killian later said. Only those residents with concrete respiratory symptoms were kept in their rooms. Meanwhile, dozens of residents, visitors and staff shared cake and clapped as a local band performed songs like ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’
“Within days, nurses were calling in sick, and calls to 911 were spiking for ailing residents. By March 9, 129 people were infected with the new coronavirus, including 81 residents, 34 staff members including health-care personnel, and 14 visitors, testing showed. As of Sunday, 35 deaths were tied to the home, around 7% of the national total.”
Federal health officials said the nursing home’s management “missed opportunities” to mount a “more aggressive response to the respiratory illnesses in their midst [that] could have made a difference….” According to the nursing home’s spokesman, however: “Anybody who thinks they would have known and acted differently simply was not in the situation we were in...and simply does not understand what you can do in a single long-term care facility.”
Which made me wonder. What if that tragic incident happened in the CNMI? It is more than likely that the following would be blamed:
Local culture.
Catholicism/ Spanish era.
CW-1 program.
Casino legalization.
This reminds me of what Teodoro M. Locsin (1914-2000) wrote in his 1996 biography of the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal: “One must be a philosopher to live with [colonial rulers.] The [native] is always this and that…. [The colonial rulers] alone may cultivate vices. The [native] must be a pillar of virtue. He alone may not make a slip. When the [colonial ruler] fails, it is human; when the [native] does, it is racial.”
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