The end of August is in sight, and it may be your last chance this summer to take a trip to your favorite National Park (see below), or visit the grandparents, go to the amusement park, or chill at the cabin by the lake.
Of course, we’re well past that now where I live. Here in Indiana, year-round or modified “balanced” school schedules are all the rage, so some of our kids have been in school since late July. That means we’re looking forward to Labor Day weekend and a bit farther ahead to Fall Break in October for our next chance to get away.
But when we do, wouldn’t it be great if we could all pile in a classic “woody” wagon like the one above for our trip? I tell you, it looks like it could serve as our cabin too!
Time to ramble. Let’s go!
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PICTURES OF THE WEEK
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HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
There are many special events and commemorations taking place this summer — you can find out about them HERE. But the best tribute of all would simply be to visit and enjoy at least one of our national parks this year.
What is your favorite U.S. National Park? Why?
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QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
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HOW ISRAEL SOLVES ITS BEACH PROBLEM
Speaking of modesty at the seashore, this story at RNS says the religious in Israel have found a way to relax when it comes to the whole “women showing too much skin at the beach” problem.
In Tel Aviv and about a dozen other places around Israel, they have designated “religious beaches” where men and women swim separately on alternate days. Many Israeli pools also offer a few hours of separate male and female swimming
To Israel’s credit, [Uri] Regev [president of Hiddush, a nongovernmental organization that promotes freedom of religion in Israel] said, gender-segregated beaches and tolerance for all types of religious garb “demonstrate an acceptance for varied religious beliefs” not found in most countries. While Israeli rights advocates have successfully fought against gender segregation on public buses, Regev said, no one objects to gender-segregated beaches.
“As long as municipalities offer segregated beaches without detracting from the ability of others to swim at other beaches, this is a virtue, not coercion. Ultimately, it’s all about balance,” Regev said.
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A BREAKTHROUGH FOR HINDUS IN THE U.S.
To the right is a picture of our local Hindu temple, an impressive structure on the east side of Indianapolis (click the pic for a larger image). As our society becomes more diverse and multicultural, we will be seeing all kinds of public displays of other traditions and religions in our midst.
The U.S. Postal Service has announced that, for the first time, a Hindu tradition will be honored on one of its stamps. A Forever stamp marking the Hindu holiday of Diwali will be issued on Oct. 5 at the Consulate General of India in New York City.
Diwali, or the Hindu festival of lights, is observed across the globe with music, fireworks and dance. It celebrates good triumphing over evil.
The stamp features a photograph of a traditional diya oil lamp, its flame glowing in front of a gold background.
The Hindu American Foundation, which helped lead a campaign for the stamp, said the diya is “the most iconic symbol of the holiday.”
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GAFFIGAN FAMILY VALUES
Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians. He keeps things clean, includes religion in his act (he’s a practicing Catholic), and emphasizes stories about family and home (and food, of course!).
For the past two years, TVLand network has been running “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” which has sought to mirror his life and his act. Now, at least for the time being he and his wife Jeannie (writer, show runner, and director of the show) are calling it quits. They have five children, ages 12, 10, 7, 5, and 3, and as Gaffigan says, “The show was taking us away from our most important project — our kids.”
Our life is very full. Jeannie and I write books. I tour doing stand-up. I get to do movies and stuff like that. It really comes down to our kids. The TV show was great, but our primary source of income is stand-up. And the time commitment to do the type of show we wanted—I’ve been doing this long enough where I’m not seeking a certain amount of fame. Is it exciting that it’s the No. 1 comedy trending on Twitter on Sunday? Yes. Not that I even know what that means. There’s so many pieces, and the creative team of Jeannie and I, we have to manage the expectations of. TV Land’s been great. The TV landscape is changing, so they might want a show that’s going to do 22 episodes. They might want a show that’s going to do a lot of things. What we’re looking for, and the creative outlet we’re seeking, is just incongruous when you have five children under 12. It’s just insane.
Here’s an “Inside the Episode” feature on the show, “He Said, She Said,” which gives you some flavor of the Gaffigans’ take on religion and family.
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“I’d been this way since I was a kid—just, you know, life habits I picked up from my parents and my friends at church,” Miller said. “Then one day it just hit me as I walked past a mirror and caught a glimpse of my open Bible on the chair behind me, next to some commentaries and other study materials. That was the moment I realized that I’d been reading the Bible in its proper context for so long, I couldn’t even remember what it was like before I did.”
A burst of courage and a quick internet search brought Miller to Rick Warren’s The Daniel Plan—and nothing has been the same since.
“At first I was skeptical, sure, but after just a few days in the program I couldn’t believe the results I was seeing,” she said, adding that she was “blown away” by the Old and New Testament verses used in the book as though they existed in a vacuum, and the way Warren switches up translations in order to find the one that says exactly what he is trying to say.
“I followed the steps—I dreamed big, set goals, and found buddies to reaffirm me when things got tough, and here I am. After 15 years of only reading the Bible in context, those days are gone and I’m never going back,” Miller said. “The Daniel Plan was a Godsend—it worked for me, and it can work for you, too.”
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HERE’S EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH OUR U.S. HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM
Excerpted from an article by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in WSJ
…Our health-care system is confusing. The public is understandably confused about why we have raised the price of a two-pack of EpiPens by 500% over the past decade—from $100 in 2007 to $600 today.That sounds like a lot, especially since the active ingredient, epinephrine, has been around since 1901 and is cheap to make. Yes, we recently improved our injector, but guess what? The old injector worked fine. EpiPen, using the old injector, saved thousands of lives, especially children who are allergic to peanuts or bee stings.
The drug can be bought for 10 cents in many countries; the old injector design our would-be competitors are free to copy to their heart’s content. Our prices would surely be lower, then, if we actually had some competitors. Don’t blame me. The Food and Drug Administration has delayed the entry of one competitor and made noises that recently drove another from the market over product-quality snafus.
As I explained to the New York Times this week, “I am a for-profit business.” EpiPen sales have reached $1 billion a year on my watch, up from $200 million a decade ago. Guess how much of that growth is not increased volume but increased profit? A lot. That’s capitalism. I’m doing my job. Maybe the FDA should do theirs.*
(*Mylan employs lobbyists and lawyers to delay competitors from getting their products approved by the FDA.)
Newspaper and TV coverage of our pricing controversy has not been friendly to Mylan, but most reports at least mention the ways we strive to lower the out-of-pocket price for consumers with coupons and rebates to offset their copays and deductibles. We also provide free drugs to hardship cases. The Washington Post even alluded to these efforts in its headline: “Despite coupons, EpiPen’s virtual monopoly roils critics.”
Sadly, the media have proved unable to explain the finer points of pharmaceutical pricing. Not that we blame the media: health-care pricing is complicated and subject to Reporter Complexity Refusal Syndrome.
And yet the essential matter is not complicated. It can be explained in a sentence: Six hundred dollars is the price we want insurers to pay.
Insurers are not spending your money. They are spending everybody’s money. Look at it from the perspective of health-care providers, drugmakers or medical-device suppliers. All of us are competing for a common pot of loot. Naturally, each wants to maximize his share. That’s human nature. If 10 hungry people are sitting around a small bowl of jelly beans, each will eat more, and faster, than he otherwise would.
Notice something else: How much each provider takes out of the common pot has no natural, organic relationship to the value the provider brings to the patient. Why not? Well, in the rest of the economy, when a consumer is spending out of his pocket, he has incentive to judge whether the service he’s buying is worth the price he’s being asked to pay.
Now you know why we offer coupons and rebates to individual consumers. This is our way of trying to re-desensitize customers to the price of EpiPen in order to counter the efforts of insurers to re-sensitize them by hitting them with copays and deductibles.
Then why does getting our coupons and rebates involve rigmarole? Because certain consumers won’t make the effort, and then we get to keep the money that would otherwise go to defray their out-of-pocket costs.
It’s a great game and we have fun playing it. On average, however, it probably does not increase the health-care industry’s profit margins or the public’s health—but only the share of national income diverted to health care from everything else: beer nuts, wedding presents, automobiles. Our industry’s share of GDP is 17%, up from 13% two decades ago. Hooray, that’s $700 billion a year.
For decades, health-care reform as preached by knowledgeable experts has aimed at fixing this dynamic, and yet every law passed by Congress ends up doing the opposite, basically using taxpayer money to fill the pot with more jelly beans for providers to fight over.
Chief Executive Officer, Mylan
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TODAY IN MUSIC…
Tomorrow, August 28, is the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I Have a Dream” speech given during the March on Washington in 1963.
Before King spoke that day, Peter, Paul, and Mary sang Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Let freedom ring.