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Columbia Missourian

Passing of daily papers a tragedy

By J Karl Miller
April 7, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

A healthy lifestyle is the result of self-discipline and strong morals and need to be encouraged by societal changes, not scare-tactic surveys.

As have many who have editorialized, I too deplore the losing battle our daily newspapers are waging with television, the Internet and a national apathy/laziness over the presentation of news. I prefer printed page reporting of the professional journalist — TV sound bites are shallow and Internet blogs lack the experienced oversight of an editor.

The decline in readership and the attendant loss of advertising has limited circulation to the point that several dailies have closed their doors while others are contemplating a similar fate. The passing of daily papers will have a bruising effect on our culture — denying the public an established and recognized local news source, along with the opportunity to question that source would be a national tragedy.


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It is impossible to read a news periodical in a vacuum — whether events, information or editorial comment, it causes people to think, to agree or disagree and hopefully, to respond or react. Is there one among us who has not at some time, damned the media as hopelessly biased or in the clutches of some special interest? Conversely, should we not also abhor the void that would emerge without this thought or anger provoking printed medium?

As an example, two surveys reported locally as well as nationwide have captured my attention. The first addressing causes of obesity and the other naming consumption of red and processed meats as causing older Americans a greater risk of dyingfrom cancer and heart disease. My interest in the former questions the necessity of funding yet another survey and the doom factor reintroduced by the “food police” in the latter.

Having better than average eyesight, I don’t question the obesity statistics quoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but other than extraordinary disorders/maladies, the cause is not that difficult to determine. An evening at a Golden Corral, a Ryan’s or other all-you-can-eat buffet will enable the “surveyors” an glutton’s eye view of the root cause of obesity.

The factor contributing most to obesity among children is likewise not difficult to identify. How often do you see youngsters participating in out of doors spontaneous activities? Regrettably, we have reached the point in our society where, without adult organization, supervision and the latest equipment, children are content with the exercise provided by video games, text messaging, TV and consuming snacks and soft drinks.

We can spend all manner of resources on studies, phased surveys, meetings and recommendations but the causes of obesity — lack of self-discipline and failure to exercise — are self evident. The solution requires the discipline to limit intake and to exercise — a journey begins with the first step, an exercise and weight control program begins with pushing away from the table.

The validity or value of the federal study of increased danger to older Americans by consuming red and/or processed meats raises questions. My initial doubts were triggered by the questionable demographics attributed to the half million participants recruited from the ranks of the AARP. Mr. Rashmi Sinha, lead author of the National Cancer Institute’s study described them as “healthier than other Americans of similar age.”

Additionally, while saying the findings tend to support the advice of other health groups that diets heavy in hamburger, hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts increase the occurrence of cancer and heart disease, he admitted the risk was moderate. The study also relied on the memory of its participants of what they ate — a dicey proposition for any group but not exactly a trait ascribed to seasoned citizens. Moreover, there was no mention of older Americans being more prone to death as a group.

I have a skeptic’s attitude toward altering dining habits through fear inducing studies as many have been found false. Remember when the cholesterol count in eating more than four eggs per week was a heart attack looking for a place to happen and, who can forget the evils of pork before it became “the other white meat?”

Special interest groups are notoriously supportive of any effort to limit meat intake. The University of North Carolina’s Interdisciplinary Obesity Center supports reducing meat intake to decrease the greenhouse gases from livestock contributory to global warming. The Duke University Diet and Fitness Center describes meat as a supporting actor on the plate instead of the main entree. The caveats notwithstanding, I intend to remain a carnivore.

Accept or dismiss these studies, conclusions and recommendations as you wish — the information is intended to be helpful. However, health and fitness are the product of self-discipline and common sense — personal and family responsibilities. Government solutions are woefully short on both.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at