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Madeleine Begun Kane


Health care professionals throughout the United States are bracing for a severe outbreak of National Election Withdrawal Syndrome ("NEWS"). This debilitating condition strikes Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, creating an insatiable hunger for obsolete election reports. Several 1996 victims known as the "Recycle-Gate Five" are still serving time for ransacking the All The News That's Fit To Shred Paper Recycling Plant.

According to experts, NEWS rarely affects non-voters. This has led researchers to speculate that NEWS is caused by parasites that live in voting booths. But chiropractors disagree, contending that the arm motion required to record votes causes vertebral misalignments which lead to depression, anxiety, and hiccups.

No NEWS vaccine has been developed to date. Nutritionists, however, insist that a high fiber diet consisting of oat bran, wheat germ, and dandelion leaves prevents the disease. While some physicians acknowledge that this menu helps, they argue that it does so only because it keeps people in bathrooms for hours at a time, reducing their exposure to network news.

The advice of STOP NEWS NOW, a coalition of health care professionals, comes too late for this November's epidemic. It's spokesperson, Dr. Zaide Balabuster, said yesterday that people should "limit their news intake to one hour per night during the six month period immediately preceding presidential elections." STOP NEWS NOW also recommends that those most prone to the disorder (people whose combined age and IQ exceed 180) should avoid all public affairs programming. "Just say no," advised Balabuster, adding "Since the McLaughlin Group is content-free, you may watch it as often as you'd like."

Most scientists agree that viewing too many election related spectacles and surfing too many political Web sites may cause a NEWS attack. To prevent it, they urge voters to reduce their exposure to election coverage. Not only will this help stave off NEWS, but it clears the mind of confusing clutter, stimulates brain activity, and unblocks obstructed mucous membranes.

Even if precautions are taken, millions of Americans will be afflicted by NEWS. Historically, it strikes pundits, politicians, and talk show hosts first. The following are some symptoms alert viewers may notice during the second and third weeks of November:

* Leno implores Johnny to come back, and Letterman begs for another bypass.

* Oprah does a three-part election retrospective entitled "Betrayed Politicians Confront Ex-Spin-Meisters," "Jilted Candidates Confront Ex-Supporters," and "Deceived Voters Confront Ex-Congressmen."

* Politicians disappear amid rumors that doctors are surgically removing their smiles.

* Sunday wonk show panelists sob uncontrollably and whimper "Who cares?"

* A slew of Dot.coms fail. (Oops, sorry -- wrong crisis.)

How do you know you've succumbed to NEWS? Unfortunately, symptoms vary from election to election. For instance, after Election 2000, Republican victims found themselves pestering friends to "say 'fuzzy math' ten times fast," while Democrats suffered the "wealthiest one percent" variant of the same disorder. If you suspect that you're a NEWS victim, consult your physician immediately.

The treatment for NEWS takes nearly a year, requiring a gradual withdrawal from campaign coverage under medical supervision. During the first week you watch 60 hours of election commentary reruns. As the months progress, these programs are replaced by vital current telecasts such as infomercials and "American Idol" spin-offs. If you follow this regime strictly, you should recover just in time for Campaign 2004.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Bridge News (in a different form)

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