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TARGETING OUR WALLETS by Beth Rankin

 Maybe it was the way I was raised. Maybe it was years of tight cash flow and different priorities, but I have never been a big television watcher. So, I often do not know much about the latest popular show and definitely do not get assaulted by a lot of commercials. Recently the games I play on my phone (Words with Friends and Sudoku) have started to run ads. Boo! But since that personal budget constraint makes me feel I have better things to do with $10 than pay to not have ads show. So, I have been collecting slogans in the past couple of months. I know that the people who design ads are using words, pictures and sound to attract their assumed demographic for their products. I just do not think I fit many of those groupings. Here’s a small example: PERFECT TODAY, BETTER TOMORROW. I don’t remember the concept being marketed but just looking at the words I think they missed it. What is better than perfect? If we have perfect today, why change? But since most of us do not have “perfect” I guess some people buy into a better tomorrow with whatever they were pushing. LUXURY HAS NO BOUNDARIES. Again, I did not note the item being sold but this reminded me of something my family discussed twenty-two years ago. (I remember when because I was pregnant with Sam.) We were on a summer vacation (cabins, not camping because of my pregnancy) when the lottery had reached 80 million dollars. To kill time while we were driving we played the “what if we won” game. With... read more

WHY MEDICAL INSURANCE MATTERS TO YOU! by Deborah G. Hankins

The U.S. Senate is reportedly considering a healthcare bill, although few will admit to seeing it or knowing its contents. Rumors indicate it will not, as hoped, be a “kinder, gentler” version of the House bill. There’s been a great deal of criticism of the direct effects of the House bill including, but not limited to, tens of millions without insurance, astronomical cost increases for seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, inability to get coverage for preexisting conditions, watered-down coverage (with many standard situations not covered) and loss of support for those in nursing homes. However, I’ve heard little regarding the effects on those not included above. Please note the following is not deeply researched, but largely the product of my own logical process and as such could be far from accurate. I’d love feedback from those more deeply-informed than I. Let’s imagine an employed head of family with a spouse and two children. Insurance for this family is provided by his/her employer and deducted from his/her paycheck. In fact, both spouses enjoy this benefit, so if one loses his/her job, there’s a back-up plan. This happy family is probably laboring under the illusion that they have nothing to fear. I believe this is far from the truth! The disappearance of billions of dollars from medical payments will impact clinics and hospitals. Personnel will be laid off and programs will be cut. Wait-time for all services will be longer and some “frills” will disappear. If you need a class on dealing with your child’s juvenile diabetes, for instance, it may no longer be offered as often or not at... read more

SHORT FICTION by James Merritt

[James Merritt is a master of short fiction.  He is especially talented at weaving a story from almost any subject–from horror to humor.  Following are four stories we think you’ll enjoy–or, at least get a “kick” out of!] DESTRUCTION With each balloon that popped, his future died a little more. His dreams of hearing, changing, and expressing the world through music ending with each dart thrown. With the air escaping a million unknown futures falling behind him. Once he was a young child whose mother daily forced him to practice singing, violin, and piano. When he turned twelve, he found his talents multiplying daily. On the same day his mother discovered heroin. By fourteen, he simply had to escape the destruction of what was left of his home. He ran off to a carnival and worked, thinking he would only stay until he was old enough to escape as an adult. Working the balloon pop station for four years destroyed his hearing–ending what was the great hope of humanity. He had had the potential to put all other musicians past and present to shame. Potential to save humanity from war through the purest beauty in the universe. Now, humanity would be lost–the world’s destruction due to a balloon pop.   FLY AND HIS LOVER The fly found its soulmate from its previous life and buzzed around his head. Landing on the human, he shared his coffee, lightly caressed his hand. The fly was driving the man nuts! It was buzzing around his head, landing on his coffee cup, and crawling up and down his arm. The man picked up... read more

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POLITICS

IF YOU DON’T ALREADY LOVE HIM…by Jen Hayden

IF YOU DON’T ALREADY LOVE HIM…by Jen Hayden

…This story about Al Franken dissing Ted Cruz should do the trick Minnesota Senator Al Franken has a new book coming out entitled Giant of the Senate. From the description, it sounds like a fascinating look at how Franken eked out a razor-thin victory to put him in the United States Senate, and discovered he had a talent for governing: This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It’s a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it. It’s a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast. Writing about his time in the Senate thus far, Senator Franken dedicated an entire chapter to just one of his colleagues–Senator Ted Cruz, a man who is reportedly deeply despised by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Jonathon Tilove, the chief political writer for the Austin American-Statesman, has shared a portion of this chapter on Twitter. Senator Franken is careful to detail why he feels justified in calling out Ted Cruz specifically: For what it’s worth, I feel fully justified in doing so, because Ted Cruz violated basic Senate protocol himself when he went to the floor and called Mitch McConnell a liar. It was the sort of thing that just isn’t done, a breach of... read more

RELIGION

YOUR SILENCE IS SHOUTING YOUR VALUES by Amy Johnson

YOUR SILENCE IS SHOUTING YOUR VALUES by Amy Johnson

White men, including white pastors, are failing women’s health. I’m not saying every white man in the Trump Administration, or every white male pastor in the country is intentionally working against women’s rights. But here’s the thing. Because they are white and hold positions of power, when white men in government, and white male pastors in the United States (and even in the United Church of Christ) are not intentionally and loudly advocating for all women’s rights, then they are effectively being complicit in silencing women and their health care needs in our country. The pervasiveness of issues that disproportionately affect women in our country is staggering and deserves outrage and advocacy, not silence. Consider that approximately half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. In women under 20 that statistic rockets to 4 out of 5. Women of color and poor women experience even higher rates. Women do not get pregnant by themselves. Where is the outrage about this very preventable condition, and where is the overarching support for services to prevent it? Almost 20% of women in America report experiencing rape in their lifetime, and over 40% of them were first raped before age 18. Higher percentages of students of color report having been raped than white students. Nearly twice as many American women were murdered by current or ex male partners between 2001 and 2012 than American troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same time period. African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women). The prevalence of these issues means they are all too alive and... read more

CURRENT

WHY MEDICAL INSURANCE MATTERS TO YOU! by Deborah G. Hankins

WHY MEDICAL INSURANCE MATTERS TO YOU! by Deborah G. Hankins

The U.S. Senate is reportedly considering a healthcare bill, although few will admit to seeing it or knowing its contents. Rumors indicate it will not, as hoped, be a “kinder, gentler” version of the House bill. There’s been a great deal of criticism of the direct effects of the House bill including, but not limited to, tens of millions without insurance, astronomical cost increases for seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, inability to get coverage for preexisting conditions, watered-down coverage (with many standard situations not covered) and loss of support for those in nursing homes. However, I’ve heard little regarding the effects on those not included above. Please note the following is not deeply researched, but largely the product of my own logical process and as such could be far from accurate. I’d love feedback from those more deeply-informed than I. Let’s imagine an employed head of family with a spouse and two children. Insurance for this family is provided by his/her employer and deducted from his/her paycheck. In fact, both spouses enjoy this benefit, so if one loses his/her job, there’s a back-up plan. This happy family is probably laboring under the illusion that they have nothing to fear. I believe this is far from the truth! The disappearance of billions of dollars from medical payments will impact clinics and hospitals. Personnel will be laid off and programs will be cut. Wait-time for all services will be longer and some “frills” will disappear. If you need a class on dealing with your child’s juvenile diabetes, for instance, it may no longer be offered as often or not at... read more