Regret, SCOTUS Echo Chamber, Alzheimer's SockThe Morning Show
- Dec 23, 2014
NO REGRETS? The year’s end is a time of reflection – rumination, perhaps. Thoughts easily turn to regret over lost opportunities, goals unfulfilled or decisions gone awry. Is that kind of thinking helpful? Clinical psychologist and “Psychology Today” columnist Melanie Greenberg says regret can be useful, in the right situations. There’s a lot of science behind regret – “It has a good side and a bad side, in a way,” says Greenberg. “If you can do something about the situation, it’s a good thing. It can motivate you to change, especially if you’re young.” Women regret relationship decisions more than men, says Greenberg. “It may be that men replace lost relationships quicker, or it could just be the way women’s brains work.” People in the U.S. experience regret more than countries with arranged marriages and economic restrictions. “The more personal choice you have, the more you experience regret,” says Greenberg. Over short periods of time, you have more regret for actions taken. Over long periods of time, you have more regret for actions not taken. Greenberg says you may regret eating that second piece of cake at dinner tonight, but over a lifetime, people are more likely to regret the job they didn’t take or the relationship they didn’t pursue. MRI data has shown regret is tied to the reward center and threat-detection areas of the brain. Regret is a two-edged sword – it can motivate change, or get you stuck in a loop of wallowing. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this a controllable situation?’ If it’s controllable, you can set a course of action,” says Greenberg. If the situation is out of your control – a done deal, so to speak, it’s best to work on coping with it through therapy and forgiving yourself for those decisions. “Self-compassion is helpful, too. Learn to be kinder to yourself – what would you say to a friend? We often have an easier time being kind to others than to ourselves.” “Gratitude is another approach – focusing on all the good things the choice has brought you: relationships, experiences,” adds Greenberg. “It’s a way of priming your brain – redirecting it onto a positive path.” JAZZ VOCALS: 6 MILES AHEAD Hate to break it to you, but if there’s anything you regret doing this year, it’s probably too late to get right before the jolly old elf pays your house a visit this Christmas. Provo-based vocal jazz group “6 Miles Ahead” performs “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” live on BYU Radio’s Highway 89. ELITE SUPREME COURT LAWYERS The U.S. Supreme Court is a powerful – and relatively mysterious – judicial body in the United States. Very few people have actually been inside the court’s chambers as the justices hear oral arguments, pose questions and occasionally banter with each other. And it turns out the lawyers who make those oral arguments in Supreme Courts cases are also an elite club. A recent Reuters examination of nine-years-worth of Supreme Court petitions found some 17,000 lawyers requested their cases be heard by the Supreme Court, but only 66 of those lawyers had a good chance of actually having their petition accepted. Those 66 attorneys were six times more likely to get a hearing than the average petition. The Reuters investigation focused on private petitioners – not those petitioned on behalf of a state or the federal government. The 66 lawyers are mainly white, mostly male and have the same kinds of backgrounds as the justices themselves – elite education and affiliation with the court itself or prestigious office of the solicitor general, explains Joan Biskupic, editor in charge of Legal Affairs for Reuters author of three books on Supreme Court Justices. Her most recent is “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice.” “They were really insiders,” says Biskupic. And most – 51 of the 66 – work for law firms that specialize in corporate interests. “Inside knowledge cuts both ways,” acknowledges Biskupic. These elite lawyers pitch themselves to clients as having an inside understanding of the court and how to succeed there. That creates a natural screening effect – they get more work before the Supreme Court and the justices want lawyers who know how to argue in a way that works for them. On the other hand, the success of these elite lawyers reinforces the power and success of corporate interests at the Supreme Court, says Biskupic. All of the justices interviewed by Reuters (8 of the 9) said they like the system this way and feel there are enough successful attorneys representing advocacy groups and private citizens to counterbalance the corporate interests represented by the court’s elite attorneys. Biskupic says those advocate lawyers do have a good track record in winning cases once their petitions have been accepted by the Supreme Court. “It’s getting the petition heard in the first place, where the elite lawyers representing corporate interests have the real advantage.” Biskupic quotes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as saying, “Business can pay for the best money can buy; the average citizen cannot. That’s just the reality.” “People will disagree whether this is a good or bad phenomenon, but we felt it was important to point out that what seems to be mattering to the court now is not just the merits of the case, but the merits of the lawyering itself,” says Biskupic. The concern for some is that the U.S. Supreme Court has become an echo chamber, says Biskupic, with fewer and fewer voices involved in shaping the nation’s laws. “It’s become an inside-the-beltway cast more than it ever has, and that’s disturbing to some.” “We raise the question, isn’t there a broader pool of people who might be able to offer the justices good cases and good quality lawyering, other than those who’ve come up through the system in a way similar to the justices themselves?” says Biskupic. How did the elite club of Supreme Court lawyers get started? Biskupic points to former BYU president and President Ronald Reagan’s first solicitor general Rex Lee who was the first to create a Supreme Court-centered practice at a private D.C. law firm. “In his first two years of that practice, he argued record eight cases before the Supreme Court and he was copied by other firms,” explains Biskupic. CHRISTMAS FOR COWBOYS Singer-songwriter Trisha Storey performs “Christmas for Cowboys” on BYU Radio’s live recital program Highway 89. THE GREAT BREAKFAST DEBATE “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” intones your mother and many weight loss programs. But, nutrition and obesity expert Andrew Brown at the University of Alabama in Birmingham says the research doesn’t prove eating breakfast has an impact on weight. “Eating breakfast may help with weight loss, it may not - we just don’t quite know yet – the science is still being developed,” says Brown. What’s the disconnect? Brown says there’s a tendency to assume causal links based on “common sense” or holes in nutrition research. “Hopefully we can hold off, as a society, on choosing sides until the evidence is developed.” A major weakness of “breakfast” research, says Brown, is that many of the studies rely on participants to report their eating habits – and self-reporting is not always reliable. Brown says other breakfast studies focus on short periods – even a single day – which may show skipping breakfast results in more eating at lunch, but over a longer period, total caloric intake may actually be lower for those who skip breakfast. Timing of eating is another area of strong presumption, but little scientific evidence. What DO we know about healthy eating? Brown says research on the effects of vitamin deficiencies is fairly clear and solid. “We do know the requirements of some micronutrients, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino-acids.” But long-term effects of lifestyle choices is much harder to pin down. “What works for you?” is the approach he says many national dietary groups are turning toward. “You can be your own scientist – if you normally don’t eat breakfast and you’re not feeling great, try eating breakfast,” says Brown. 2014 WORD OF THE YEAR: VAPE Every year, the people who write the Oxford Dictionary identify a new “Word of the Year” that sheds light on where we’re headed as a society. For example, last year the word was “selfie.” This year’s word is equally revealing – it’s vape. Now, if you’re not familiar, the Oxford Dictionary says “to vape” is “to inhale and exhale vapor produced by an electronic cigarette.” In just five years, sales of electronic cigarettes have gone from nearly nothing to a multi-million dollar industry. They’ve gained particular popularity with teenagers – the CDC says more than four percent of all high school students have smoked an e-cigarette in the last month. Vaping has become particularly appealing to teenagers, notes Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic and a leading health researcher. E-cigarette use has tripled among teens in just the past two years. “Many of the e-cigarettes are sold in sweet fragrances like bubble gum, which attracts young people,” says Roizen. Roizen points to research indicating e-cigarette vapor contains formaldehyde which is harmful to the person smoking the e-cigarette and those inhaling the vapor secondhand. Even so, e-cigarettes are not as bad as traditional cigarettes, says Roizen. “If we banned tobacco and only allowed e-cigarettes, we’d be safer. The problem with e-cigarettes is that they’re a gateway to smoking – used to addict kids to nicotine.” While some adults use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, “clearly e-cigarettes have addicted more kids than they’ve helped adults quit,” says Roizen. “The worry is that e-cigarettes will addict younger kids and reverse the downward trend in smoking as those kids move to tobacco.” TEEN INVENTS TRACKER FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENT Alzheimer’s is a frightening ailment that afflicts some 5 million Americans. The disorientation the disease causes can be terrifying both for the person suffering from the disease and caregivers trying to make sure the patient doesn’t wander off and get hurt or lost. That’s the problem 15-year-old Eagle Scout Kenneth Shinozuka set out to solve with a device he calls “SafeWander.” Shinozuka’s invention won a Scientific American Action Award of $50,000 and is getting international attention. “When I first created the device I thought it would only apply to my grandfather, but it turned out it really did touch a chord with a lot of Alzheimer’s patients across the country and their caregivers,” says Shinozuka, who is now 16. Shinozuka has always been close to his grandfather. He recalls walking with his grandfather in a park in Japan at age 4 when his grandfather got lost. “That’s when they first told me he had Alzheimer’s. My grandfather wanders from his bed at least once a night now, so it’s something my family has to deal with every night. Several years ago, his grandfather wandered out of the home and onto the interstate.” Wandering affects the majority of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, adds Shinozuka. He set out to create a sensor and a wearable wireless circuit that would alert an app on the caregiver’s smartphone. Shinozuka built the “SafeWander” sensor, circuit that attaches to a patient’s foot by Velcro or is embedded in a sock. “It took me about a year to create the device and even longer to refine it,” says Shinozuka. He’s been testing it on his grandfather for over a year now “and it’s had a 100 percent success rate.” He’s begun testing SafeWander in nursing homes for Alzheimer’s patients. Why not include GPS? “GPS doesn’t work well indoors,” says Shinozuka. SafeWander currently uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with the caregiver’s smart phone. “I’m working on incorporating wireless technology.” SafeWander is launching in March 2015. Pre-registration is available now. Shinozuka hopes to become a neuroscience researcher, looking into the mysteries of the brain and the cause and cure for Alzheimer’s. “I don’t want other people to experience the pain of my grandfather.” Show More...