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Accumulated Myths
Accumulated Myths

Monday, May 14, 2012  Rochester, NY -  It seems to me that in the case of this article in particular, an introduction is superfluous.  The truth may not always be stranger than fiction, but it is certainly more important.  So, here goes:

*  The Mayan allegedly predicted long ago that the end of the world would occur on December 21, 2012.  Not so, say experts.  An archaeological team from Boston University recently visited crucial Mayan ruins and examined artifacts in Guatemala.  According to their findings, it is not true, and never has been true that the Mayans specified any date, ever, relative to a prediction regarding the end of the world (Source:  William Saturno and Franco Rossi, Boston University).

*  A new medical study has determined that placing a zinc lozenge in one's mouth will not prevent the common cold, or lessen its duration or severity (Source:  Dr. Jack Gwaltney, University of Virginia).

*  Many Americans have an irrational fear of crime, and distort the odds of dying from an act of violence.  While America has a higher rate of violence than do Western European nations and countries like Canada, your odds of perishing as a result of, say, gun violence, are relatively low.

An American has only a 1 in 325 chance of dying from gunfire, yet Americans, on average, have a 1 in 5 chance of dying from heart disease; and a 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer (Sources: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council).

*  On the other hand, Americans commonly fear certain activities and natural disasters that may seem dangerous, but are statistically far less often fatal than heart disease or cancer.   For instance, the average American has only a 1 in 9,000 chance of drowning; a 1 in 20,000 chance of dying in a plane crash; a 1 in 60,000 chance of dying during a tornado, and only a 1 in 84,000 chance of dying due to being struck by lightning (Sources: National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies).

*  There is a myth being perpetrated among allegedly well-educated and enlightened Americans that average, every day citizens should eat a "gluten-free diet". Not so.  Read: 

"Long before its newfound popularity, the gluten-free diet was a medical staple -- a proven treatment for celiac disease. Perhaps someday, new scientific findings will show that gluten-free diets benefit other health problems, too.

"But for now, people need a gluten-free diet only if they have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a condition that doctors once dismissed, but now are recognizing as legitimate. That's the advice of Stefano Guandalini, MD, director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

“People think that gluten-free diets are more healthy,” Guandalini says. “This is, of course, not the case.” In fact, the diet is hard to follow and may pose nutritional drawbacks when people have no medical reason to be on it." (Source:  WebMD).

*  One fallacy making the rounds over the last three decades or so is that parents who are highly involved in their children's lives exhibit better parenting skills than "more distant parents".  Think again.

A study that looked at so-called helicopter parents asked participants to rate their level of agreement with statements such as, "My parents have contacted a school official on my behalf to solve problems for me," "On my college move-in day, my parents stayed the night in town to make sure I was adjusted," and "If two days go by without contact my parents would contact me."

About 10 percent of the participants had helicopter parents. The rate was higher in girls than in boys, with 13 percent of the females being helicoptered compared with just 5 percent of males. And it was mainly mothers doing the hovering, the study concluded.

Students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness, among other factors, compared with their counterparts with more distant parents.

"We have a person who is dependent, who is vulnerable, who is self-conscious, who is anxious, who is impulsive, not open to new actions or ideas; is that going to make a successful college student?" the study said. "No not exactly, it's really a horrible story at the end of the day."  (Source:  Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in N.H.; and, Live Science.com).

*   Another myth is that if American parents sign up their children to participate on numerous sports teams and other after-school activities, this will have a very positive effect on their kids' present, and future.  Maybe not, some experts say.
Millions of children across America feel overwhelmed and pressured. Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist   and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem.
"Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, it's how we parent today," he says. "Parents feel remiss that they're not being good parents if their kids aren't in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive. I know sixth-graders who are already working on their resumes so they'll have an edge when they apply for college." (Source:  Psychology Today).
*  And finally, this is not a myth:  We all need mothers, whether they are biological, our adoptive mothers, our grandmothers, or simply surrogate moms (sometimes, these types of mothers are the best).  My mom died when I was 15, so now I am lucky to have two surrogate mothers:  My step mom, Diane, and my girlfriend's mother, Susanne.
I think Hillary Clinton was on to something:  It really does take a village.
To all the moms out there, Happy Belated Mother's Day!
-Christopher J. Wilmot, Pittsford, NY

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By: RepublicNY on 5/13/12
Here's another myth - quoted from your article: "America has a higher rate of violence than do Western European nations and countries like Canada"

Not so. In much of the developed world, crime has recently hit record highs in Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto, and a host of other major cities. In a 2001 study, the British Home Office (the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Justice) found violent and property crime increased in the late 1990s in every wealthy country except the United States. American property crime rates have been lower than those in Britain, Canada, and France since the early 1990s, and violent crime rates throughout the E.U., Australia, and Canada have recently equaled and even surpassed those in the United States. Even Sweden, once the epitome of cosmopolitan socialist prosperity, now has a crime victimization rate 20 percent higher than the United States.

Americans, on the other hand, have become much safer. Preliminary crime statistics from the FBI show that our homicide rate has sunk to levels unseen here since the early 1960s. And overall crime rates in this country are now 40 percent below the all-time highs of the early 1970s. In 1973, nearly 60 percent of American households fell victim to property crimes. In 2000, only about 20 percent did. Among the economically powerful democracies in the world, only the Japanese now have a lower victimization rate than the United States.

Wesley Lowe
Fairport, NY

By: admin on 5/13/12
(from the Co-Owner & Publisher of the Smugtown Beacon, Christopher J. Wilmot):

Mr. Lowe:

As always, you've done your homework. However, my research tells a slightly different story. My source is writer Robert Lindsay, from a published article, January 11, 2011:

Gun deaths per 100,000 pop. in comparison to US

Country Year Homicide Suicide

US 2001 3.98 5.92

Canada 2002 0.40 10x lower 2.00 3x lower

Australia 2001 0.24 17x lower 1.34 5x lower

UK 2002 0.15 27x lower 0.20 30x lower

"The UK has the strictest gun laws. The gun nuts have no argument. They just want to keep their guns, because the guns make them feel safer. But the gun is about 30 X more likely to be used in the home in a suicide or homicide than to defend the person. It’s not worth it to keep those things around. Personally, I do not want one of those blasted things anywhere near me".

I like your source better, but my gut tells me that Mr. Lindsay in on to something. I'll look for better sources tomorrow.

Again, thank you for reading!

Christopher J. Wilmot
Pittsford, NY

By: RepublicNY on 5/14/12
Your atricle didn't specify homicides, just violence in general. That's why I was a bit confused.

Wesley Lowe
Fairport, NY

By: admin on 5/14/12
There is a slight problem with your "British Crime Statistics" The U.K. measures crime using two different processes: British Crime Survey (BCS):

The Home Office conducts surveys of the population to determine how often subjects have been affected by criminal activity. Data is projected to reflect the entire population. Police reporting: Crimes are reported to the police and nationwide, census-level statistics are summarized. The BCS has been reporting a declining crime rate in the UK while police reporting has shown an increase. The BCS has routinely been criticized because it under reports crime due to the following factors: • Murdered and imprisoned people do not answer surveys • Some crimes are not surveyed when victims are below age 16 • Crime against institutions (bank robbery, etc.) are not included • Crimes are recorded at final disposition (conviction/acquittal), leaving many crimes completely unreported These deficiencies are so significant that even the British government does not believe the accuracy of the BCS.

[T]he BCS did not record ‘various categories of violent crime’, including murder and rape, retail crime, drug-taking, or offences in which the victims were aged below 16. The most reliable measure of crime is that which is reported to the police. We're facing over a million violent crimes a year for the first time in history.Row over figures as crime drops 5%,” David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, The Guardian, July 22, 2004 One curious tidbit: Murder rates initially appear to decline after 2002/2003. This is chiefly due to the scores of killings attributed to serial killer, Dr. Harold Frederick Shipman, which were booked in 2002/03 and did not recur in 2003/04. More curious are the sudden leaps in reported violent crime when the British Home Office enforced standardized methods for recording reported crime (which led the Home Office to claim crime reports to be of poor quality, and thus rely on the suspect survey mechanism):

The 1998 changes to the Home Office Counting Rules had a very significant impact on violent crime; the numbers of such crimes recorded by the police increased by 83 per cent as a result of the 1998 changes … The National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS), introduced in April 2002, again resulted in increased recording of violent crimes particularly for less serious violent offenses

Jeffrey McSpadden
Rochester, NY

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