Daily Archives: August 30, 2002

The Goodness of Gossip

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Gather round the water fountain, it’s time to dish the dirt about J. Lo and Ben, Angelina and Billy Bob, and of course, your friends and neighbors. It’s time to gossip. Come on, we know you do it. We all do it. And yet we think we shouldn’t.

All religions warn against it. The Bible lumps gossips in with “the slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty boastful, inventors of evil,” (and the list goes on) who, “though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die.” And yet despite this and a whole host of other admonitions, lips continue to flutter when the subject matter at hand is other people’s lives.

But now some philosophers are arguing that that gossip can make us good, even make us better. Who are they sleeping with?


Emrys Westacott, professor of philosophy, Alfred University

Anne Skleder, professor of psychology, Alvernia College

and Bill Zwecker, gossip columnist, Chicago Sun Times

West Nile in the Wild

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It’s the sequel Hitchcock never made: but this time the birds die. The West Nile Virus has arrived, bringing with it the apocalyptic promise of disease-riddled crows raining down from New York City trees; finches and sparrows dropping dead in suburban back yards.

It might be a summer blockbuster, if two dozen humans weren’t among the death toll. The mosquito-born disease landed in America about three years ago, and despite all the speculation about what it might mean for humans, it has quickly evolved into a wrecking ball of avian devastation, decimating more than 100 species including jays, owls, and eagles.

The biblical imagery of West Nile’s continuing migration isn’t lost on wildlife experts rushing to explain the source of the pestilence, and assessing potential shockwaves up through the food chain. Counting dead crows.


Dr. Kathryn Converse, wildlife disease specialist, National Wildlife Health Center

Ward Stone, state wildlife pathologist, New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bob McLean, program manager for wildlife diseases at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado

Vicki Kramer, Chief of Vector-Borne Disease Section, California Department of Health Services