Too much Facebook leads to envy and depression

— Constantly checking Facebook to see what your friends are doing could lead to some serious depression.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Bradley University and the University of Missouri Columbia found that heavy Facebook users can experience envy — which can ultimately lead to extreme sadness.

The researchers surveyed 736 college students and found that, basically, if you quietly stalk your friends on Facebook and then realize that your life doesn’t measure up to theirs, you feel bad about yourself.

“If Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship — things that cause envy among users — use of the site can lead to feelings of depression,” said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

This isn’t just a college phenomenon. I am nearing middle age and I can relate.

Facebook is a huge part of my life. Like most Facebook users, I have the app on my phone. I check it at work. I check it at home. I check it when I am out. If I am in a subway station with Wi-Fi, I check it there too.

I am up to date on all my friends, their kids and whatever they are reading at that moment. Unfortunately, it’s an addiction that I can’t quit.

Facebook has allowed me a little window into my friends’ lives back home. They have babies — well some of them have teenagers. They have lovely homes. And the dinners — oh the dinners they serve! There are food presentations that look like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine. I watch all the videos of their kids saying the darndest things. I click on their pictures of vacations in exotic places.

I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is a lifestyle magazine featuring my friends, who are doing it better than me.

I peruse Facebook from computer on my coffee table, because I am not grown up enough to buy a desk for myself. My coffee table is my all-purpose table. I eat there too — usually hunks of cheese with a knife and no crackers. That’s right no crackers, because I am too lazy to run out to the bodega.

My only consolation is sometimes my friends confuse “there,” “their” and “they’re” in their posts about their lovely vacations and darling children. Then suddenly, I feel a little bit better about myself.

UDC Men’s Basketball Falls at St. Thomas Aquinas in Season Finale, 99-78

— SPARKILL, NY – Playing against a St. Thomas Aquinas squad needing a win to capture an East Coast Conference regular season championship, the University of the District of Columbia men’s basketball team was defeated, 99-78 in its 2014-15 season finale Saturday afternoon at Aquinas Hall.

The Firebirds (5-23, 5-15 ECC) were led by junior transfer forward Geran Pope (Political Science – Washington, DC/Virginia Union), who registered his 5th double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Senior guards Michael Terry (Criminal Justice – Philadelphia, PA/Boston U) and Quasim Jones (Mass Media – Philadelphia, PA/Johnson CC), playing their final games as Firebirds, registered 15 and 14 points, respectively.

UDC Firebirds, Basketball Player Geran Pope (Forward)

(Courtesy of UDC)

UDC Firebirds, Basketball Player Geran Pope (Forward)

St. Thomas Aquinas (20-10, 17-3 ECC), which won its 4th straight game to clinch the regular season conference title, had seven scorers reach double-figures, including a game-high 16 by Alushula Odongo.

The Spartans shot a blistering 60-percent (33-of-55 FG) as they out-scored UDC 50-34 in the paint. They also feasted at the free-throw line, making 28-of-39 attempts (72-percent).

The Firebirds tried to keep pace early as a Reggie Sidbury three-pointer brought them within two, 10-8 nearly two minutes into the game. STAC took control of the game at that point, however, as they stormed out to a 22-7 run, culminating in a three-pointer by Aaron Cust to put the Spartans up 32-15 just before the 10-minute mark. Then, already trailing 36-21, UDC allowed STAC to close out the half on a 22-8 march, as the hosts took a commanding, 58-29 lead into intermission.

From there, STAC cruised to a comfortable, 21-point victory to complete the season sweep of UDC and capture the No. 1 seed in next week’s ECC Tournament.

UDC, with all five of its wins coming in ECC play this season, finished next to last in the league standings. The Firebirds’ five wins this season under 2nd year head coach Mike Riley was still an improvement upon last year’s mark of 3-23 (1-19 ECC).

We need justice in our communities

Sgt. Lisa Henson is a prison guard in Baltimore. It’s a job she has had for 20 years. She is a straightforward and blunt woman. “I have a simple mantra about the work I do: I am fair, firm and impartial,” she said.


Richard Trumka is the president of the AFL-CIO

Like Sgt. Henson, I believe in the rule of law. I believe that people who make serious mistakes should pay appropriate penalties. Like her, I also think all of us are entitled to fair treatment from our criminal justice system. I believe, too, in the power of redemption and the need for us to support people who have done their time and want to rejoin society.

Sgt. Henson and I recently talked about the challenges in America’s criminal justice system, one of which is the need to improve wages in the communities where inmates are coming from.

The research I’ve seen supports what Henson says: “People want a way up and a way out. People will provide for their family members if they can. If they can’t, our communities fall apart. That’s how we get young people growing up in broken homes or raising themselves and getting into trouble. It’s a cycle that we need to break.”

Frankly, it seems America has approached criminal justice backwards. Under the guise of public safety, we have spent too much time and far too much money forcing millions of people of color into a permanent criminal class. We have selectively locked people up, sealed people out and shut entire communities down. The irony is doing so has made our country less safe.

People of color are suspected more, arrested more, charged more, convicted more and imprisoned longer, and those ugly facts have helped America earn the terrible title of most-imprisoned nation among developed countries. We sentence people to prison at between five and 10 times the rate of any other advanced nation. The more you look at the numbers, the worse it gets.

Today, one-third of black men in America will serve time in state or federal prison at some point in their lifetime. That is twice the rate from the 1970s and over five times higher than white men, even though studies show black men and white men commit crimes at roughly the same rates.

Let me make this point emphatically: this is not a result of higher crime rates. This is because of lengthy mandatory minimums for drug offenses and “three-strikes” laws that put people away for life and get this: Mass incarceration has not even reduced crime.

Yet it has been hell on families, especially children. Almost seven times as many kids had dads in prison in 2000 as in 1980. As you can imagine, a prison-at-all-costs mentality runs up quite a price tag. Can you believe $80 billion a year? It’s true, and the number is four times higher when you count police, judicial and legal services.

However thanks to courageous activists in California, our nation is beginning to wake up to the reality of this terrible miscarriage of justice. Last fall, California voters passed Proposition 47. The measure reduces most nonviolent crimes— including petty theft and minor drug possession— from felonies to misdemeanors. The sentences of nearly 10,000 prisoners could be reduced. The savings to California are projected to reach at least $150 million, and will go into a Create Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. This new law offers a true opportunity for a better life for Californians, and a model for progress for America.

I’m proud to join Sgt. Henson in a call to replace mass incarceration with mass employment and fair wages. This is a call for justice, for families and for public safety. I hope you’ll join us, too.

Richard Trumka is the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest organization of labor unions. He grew up in the coal country of southwest Pennsylvania.

Federal funds available to serve summer meals

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has announced that federal funds are available to assist public and private nonprofit organizations in serving free nutritious meals and snacks to children this summer through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a U. S. Department of Agriculture program.

Nearly 390,000 Maryland children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, but may not have access to nutritious meals during the summer when schools are closed. For every 100 eligible children, only 16 participate in the summer nutrition program. For families with children, food insecurity increases during the summer months. The SFSP provides children the nutritious meals they need to keep hunger at bay and remain healthy throughout the summer.

“The meals provided by the Summer Food Service Program support summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities that keep them learning, engaged, active, and safe during school vacation. The program helps prepare children for the new school year so they can perform to the best of their ability,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery.

The SFSP provides reimbursement to organizations for meals and snacks served to children in areas where at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the NSLP, or when 50 percent of the children enrolled in a program qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Most organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals or snacks per child per day. Migrant programs and camps may be reimbursed for up to three meals per child per day. Meals and snacks must meet federal nutrition guidelines.

The Program is open to children and teens age 18 and under and to individuals over 18 who are mentally or physically disabled. Interested organizations should contact MSDE at 410-767-0214. The deadline for applications is May 29, 2015. For information about the SFSP, please visit

The Maryland State Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are equal opportunity employers and providers.

Maryland Food Bank, partners kick off 2015 Spring Forward Food Drive

— The Maryland Food Bank and its partners, AARP; the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland; Safeway, WBAL-TV 11; and the U.S. Postal Service, have once again teamed up to host the Spring Forward Food Drive Presented by Harvest for the Hungry from Saturday, February 28 through Sunday, March 8, 2015.

Throughout the week, Marylanders are encouraged to donate $10 pre-packaged bags of food at Safeway stores across the state and drop-off nonperishable food items at their local post offices. Canned goods will also be collected at Central Maryland Buick/GMC dealerships, while individuals in Hagerstown, Salisbury and Southern Maryland are invited to help ‘Stuff a Bus’ on Monday, March 2, 2015 at various locations. For a complete list of drop-off locations, visit:

Additionally, donations will be collected through the Maryland Food Bank’s virtual food drive, which can be accessed via

SECU offering annual scholarships to Maryland State Employees again

— SECU, Maryland’s largest financial cooperative— will once again offer scholarships to Maryland state employees and their immediate family members who will attend college, graduate school, or trade school in the fall of 2015.

“The State Employee Scholarship Program represents an essential part of SECU’s continuing commitment to make both financial and scholastic education available to our members,” says Peggy Young, vice president of Marketing at SECU. “Doing so enables the communities we serve throughout Maryland to become stronger and financially healthier, one member and one household at a time.”

Over the past eight years, SECU has awarded nearly $250,000 in scholarships to Maryland state employees and family members through the State Employee Scholarship Program.

This year, applicants will be required to submit an essay or video on the following questions: Explain your understanding of the difference between a credit union and a bank. What do you see as the benefits of being a member of a credit union as opposed to being a customer of a bank? How do you see a credit union making a difference in your financial future?

To be eligible for SECU’s State Employee Scholarship Program, applicants must be current or retired Maryland state employees or members of the immediate families of current or retired Maryland state employees. Winners must be enrolled or accepted into a college, university, trade, or technical school. Twelfth graders who plan to attend college next fall are also eligible.

Winners of the 2015 scholarship awards will be announced on May 12. Eligibility will be verified. The deadline for applications is April 10.

For more information, application form, and submission guidelines, visit

Texas nurse who contracted Ebola to sue hospital chain

— She was the first person to ever contract Ebola in the United States, and now she’s going to suing the hospital where she got infected.

Nina Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, will file a lawsuit Monday against the hospital’s parent company Texas Health Resources, her lawyer told CNN affiliate KTVT.

According to the suit, the hospital chain failed to provide proper equipment and training to handle Ebola. Pham contracted the disease last fall while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who started showing symptoms after arriving in Dallas from Liberia.

Pham’s lawsuit also claims Texas Health Resources violated her privacy by sharing her medial records, KTVT said.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Pham wants unspecified damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings. But she told the newspaper that she wants to “make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important. And we don’t want nurses to start turning into patients.”

Texas Health Resources spokesman Wendell Watson issued a statement in response to the planned lawsuit:

“Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter.”

Another nurse treating Duncan, Amber Vinson, also contracted Ebola. Both nurses recovered after being sent to hospitals specially equipped and trained to handle Ebola — Pham at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and Vinson at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Pham is still employed and is getting a paycheck from Texas Health Resources, but has not returned to work, KTVT said. She is still suffering fatigue and body aches, but her lawyer told the affiliate it’s not clear whether the ailments are from having Ebola or from the experimental drugs Pham received.


Travel where it’s still summer right now

We know you’re shivering.

For people living in North America, it’s been an especially brutal winter. The first day of spring — March 20 — can’t come too soon.

Yet travelers willing to venture south can find sunshine, shorts weather and beaches right now in the parts of the world where summer is just winding down.

Here are some of our favorite warm spots around the globe.

Brisbane, Australia

One of the world’s most livable cities, sunny Brisbane has a beach right on the doorstep of its central business district. Known as South Bank, it’s where people go to eat, drink and play on the south bank of the Brisbane River.

South Island, New Zealand

Never mind that it doesn’t feel like summer when you’re hiking on a glacier. It would be much colder in winter! National Geographic’s 12-day adventure exploring New Zealand’s South Island includes a helicopter ride to see the Franz Josef Glacier from the air. Then you’ll be dropped off for a 2-mile hike. You’ll also have a black-water cave rafting adventure in Paparoa National Park and a hike into Abel Tasman National Park.

Medellin, Colombia

Built among shanties on a mountainside in 2007, Medellin’s Espana Library and the surrounding area are connected to the city by an amazing MetroCable system. It’s just one of the developments that led the Washington-based Urban Land Institute to name this amazing city the 2012 “Innovative City of the Year.”

Try a cafe tinto in the morning and an aguardiente when you want a harder drink.

South African safari

While it can be hot in South Africa during the summer, it’s still a wonderful time to explore the country’s natural wonders. Book a tour to pack as much into your trip as possible. REI Adventures offers an 11-day trip that includes hiking Cape Town’s Table Mountain, kayaking to an African penguin colony, a three-day safari at Sabi Sand Reserve and tasting local wines in the Cape Winelands area.

Boquete, Panama

Stop to get a picture of yourself near the enormous ships passing through the Panama Canal, an amazing feat of construction.

Then head to the mountain town of Boquete, at the foothills of the Baru Volcano in the Chiriqui Highlands, to drink coffee where some of the finest beans in the world are grown. Prefer chocolate? La Loma is a working chocolate farm, located off the grid and on the remote Bastimentos Island in Bocas del Toro. It may be the most delicious place to stay in the country.


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Why blue/black/white/gold dress went viral

— This isn’t just speculation, it’s a fact: What the majority of us read, share and discuss is not “hard news”-oriented at all. A new study, led by applied mathematicians at the University of Vermont and Mitre Corp., analyzed the emotional content of the news we share online. And no matter the source of the news or the language, we use positive words more and overwhelmingly share positive stories over the negative news.

And, according to a study done by BuzzSumo, a content discovery and measurement software company, the emotions that make a story go “viral” are not fear and anger — they are awe, laughter and amusement.

Their analysis of 10,000 most viral articles proved this point overwhelmingly.

Another case: On Friday came news of Leonard Nimoy’s death after a long and prosperous life. Quickly, his most inspiring quotes, discussion of his influence on American culture — not to mention tributes of the Vulcan salute — began trending all over the Internet as we moved on from the dress and the llamas to bond over our shared awe and admiration of a great man.

All this doesn’t mean we’re uninterested in more intellectual topics — it simply points to a positivity bias in the stories we pay attention to most online. In addition to the internal positive boost we feel, positive stories typically help us feel connected to others. What’s more amusing than looking at a dress is debating the dress with your friends and family. And as we reflect on Nimoy’s life, we can’t help but reflect on a part of our own, growing up with the shared experience across American culture of watching “Star Trek.”

As for the dress, by the way, neuroscientists who study color have an explanation for why it appears to be blue and black to some of us, but white and gold to the rest of us. In fancy terms, it has to do with the way in which light enters your eye, the “chromatic axis” variation, thanks to daylight and the fact that different colors have different wave lengths.

There are a lot of technical terms to describe the phenomenon of the dress, but I explained it to my 9-year-old this way: When we look at the same object, our eyes and brains can make us see different things. It happens with kale — my husband and I see a delicious plate of greens; our kids see something you should feed to those llamas that ran amok this week in Sun City, Arizona. Voilà, the dress mystery has been solved.

Unfortunately, that means we can all go back to work now.

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst and the CEO of Mel Robbins Enterprises, a management consulting firm. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.