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EL ESPECTADOR

How Trump Forced A News Columnist Into News Detox

News used to be a cherished staple for writer and conflict-resolution expert Aldo Civico. But when Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential elections, he had to take a break — for sanity's sake.

Time to put it down
Time to put it down
Aldo Civico

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁI think a news diet would be healthy for Colombia. Like those intermittent detoxes used to cleanse the body, the social corpus also needs a break, a chance to flush out the toxins of news — both real and fake.

These days, seeing how news, social networking sites and the moods of various friends hover almost exclusively around ex-president Álvaro Uribe's legal problems, or the antics of Antanas Mockusthe outspoken Green Party-senator who bared his buttocks last month during the opening session of the new Congress I recalled the decision I took when Donald Trump was elected. It was a wise decision.

Growing up in Italy, and especially after the abduction and killing in 1978 of the prime minister Aldo Moro, I developed a marked interest in politics and debate. Later, working with Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando during the worst years of mafia attacks on the state, I learned a tremendous amount about how to interpret the spectacle of politics and its ambiguous language, about how there can be more meaning it what's left unsaid than said.

Prime Minister Conte visit President Trump

Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte and President Donald Trump in the oval office — Photo: Mark Wilson/CNP/ZUMA

This passion has not only led me to analyze political events through reading, but also meet and even collaborate with certain political protagonists: the former Italian leader Romano Prodi, for example; and former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Before Trump's triumph, I would read various reviews every morning and watch relevant television programs. It was a passion, even a form of entertainment.

My news detox isn't about burying my head in the sand.

But with Trump's arrival I understood that if I kept up this elevated, daily dose of news and commentary, I would literally make myself sick. And so to protect myself and safeguard my health, I scaled back. I reduced my subscription to receive just the print version of the New York Times — on weekends only and stopped watching all the television shows. I replaced my ingestion of news with more book reading and with new interests. I decided to avoid exhausting political debates online. In short, I decided on a news detox.

The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson come to mind. "There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant."

My news detox isn't about burying my head in the sand. I'm not isolating myself in a state of indifference to what is happening. It's about establishing limits. And as a result, I feel even more committed to the realities of this world and continue to accompany various leaders in their areas working to change the world. I benefit, in other words, from not letting myself be infected with the toxins of hate, lies, and polarization. I protect my energies so I can make a positive contribution.

It is no coincidence that life coaches like Tim Ferris are suggesting precisely the same thing — news fasting, selective ignorance and a "low information diet." And I think here Colombia, people would do well to follow this diet as well. It think it would change the quality and tone of our conversations, and who knows, maybe even redirect the focus of news media and networking platforms.

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Future

Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

As objective as any man

Anto Magzan/ZUMA
Rachel E. Gross

-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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