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Friday, January 17, 2014
Is There Any Good News?
Is There Any Good News?
 
I received the following note about my articles from a friend, who had the following request: “Harris, I know that you, more than most, do your homework, do extensive research
and you have many informative sources to dig out even the smallest data to confirm and support your submitted facts. With this in mind, could you please double your efforts and
try your mightiest to find any good news, that is, if there is any? I’m starved for anything that will cheer us up and make us look forward to the future.”
 
With my friend’s entreaty in mind, I googled “good news” to see if there was anything that might cheer him up and, to my surprise, my search generated 5.2 million references in just
23 seconds. It’s truly mind boggling!
 
Following are ten of the first references that popped up, all of which looked interesting and worthwhile:
·        goodnewsnetwork.org
·        goodnewsmag.org
·        good-news-magazine
·        www.dailygood.org
·        goodnewsblog.com
·        goodnewsbroadcast.com
·        heroicstories.com
·        greatnewsnetwork.net
·        greatnewsindia.com
 
It turns out that there is so much good news it’s almost overwhelming, which raises the question: Why don’t we hear more about it? 
 
The answer seems fairly obvious: bad news sells and good news doesn’t. 
 
Tragedy, disaster and fear attract the eyes and ears of readers and listeners, and advertising rates are based on the number of eyes and ears that the various media attract, so that’s what we get.
 
Here is just a sampling of just some of the good news that my brief search surfaced:
 
Lady Liberty's Crown Opens to Tourists, First Time Since 9/11: July 4th marked the first time visitors could tour the crown of the Statue of Liberty since it was closed following the 9/11 attacks.
240 visitors per day will now be able to reserve a spot in line to climb the 354 steps to the top. But everyone can tour the crown from home by taking the new online virtual tour.
(goodnewsnetwork.org)
 
Simple lotus meditation exercise for your inner harmony and happiness…(goodnewsdaily.com)
 
Teachers. You Made A Difference Awards: No less than 13 educators, one from each school district, in Licking County were honored with the “You Made A Difference” teaching award as given
out by students. (goodnewsblog.com)
 
“Good News Broadcast has a mission to find, receive, create and broadcast to the world, life-affirming, thought-provoking, educational news, entertainment and events; content that is non-violent,
non-sectarian, non-political. We elicit the positive side of news from the world's public, media and journalists in order to generate compelling domestic and international stories.”
 
“A driver's headlights quit on the highway at night. Another driver slows, turns on his brights, lights her way for over an hour to her exit... then turns around to drive back to his original destination.” 
(heroicstories.com)
 
“Scientists, doctors unite to fight malnutrition. In a new fight against worldwide hunger, a doctor who has long treated malnourished people is working with plant scientists trying to improve the
nutritional content of food.” (greatnewsnetwork.com)
 
“…the story of a school and a college which rose from the dust. ..Way back in 1938, the Hindi School at Ghatkopar was one of the only two of their kind in Bombay [now Mumbai]. It was in
doldrums when a young postman, Nandkishor Singh Thakur, pledged to give his spare time to the school.” (greatnewsindia.com)
 
I’ve decided that I’m going to check at least one good news website each day before looking at any of the dozens of emails that flood my inbox every morning. 
 
It seems like a good way to start the day. 
 
Perhaps if we all did this it would give us a better perspective on the world and offset some of the bad news that seems so overwhelming at times. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
 
Good luck, and happy good news hunting.
 
© 2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 22:16 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



Friday, January 17, 2014
Walmart’s Health Insurance
A January 2014 Washington Examiner article was headlined: “Surprise! Walmart health plan is cheaper, offers more coverage than Obamacare.”
 
“For many years, the giant discount retailer has been the target of unions and liberal activists who have harshly criticized the company’s health care plans, calling them ‘notorious for failing
to provide health benefits” and “substandard.”
 
“But a Washington Examiner comparison of the two health insurance programs found that Walmart’s plan is more affordable and provides significantly better access to high-quality medical
care than Obamacare.”
 
“Independent insurance agents affiliated with the National Association of Health Underwriters and health policy experts compared the two at the request of the Examiner.”
 
After reading the article, my own reaction has been “Why am I not surprised?” 
 
Following are some of the highlights of the comparison:
 
“Walmart offers its employees two standard plans, a Health Reimbursement Account and an alternative it calls ‘HRS High’ that costs more out of employees pockets but has lower deductibles. 
Blue Cross Blue Shield manages both plans nationally.”
 
“Also offered is a Health Savings Account plan that includes high deductibles but allows tax-free dollars to be used for coverage.”
 
For a monthly premium as lows as roughly $40, an individual who is a Walmart HRA plan enrollee can obtain full-service coverage for about $160 per month.”
 
Unlike Obamacare, there are no income eligibility requirements. Age and gender do not alter premium rates. The company plan is the same for all of Walmart’s 1.1 million
enrolled employees and their dependents, from its cashiers to its CEO” [Emphasis added]
 
“A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis from September showed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will face monthly premiums that are five to nine times higher
than Walmart premiums.” [Emphasis added]
 
“JAMA found the unsubsidized for a nonsmoking couple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month versus the Walmart cost of about $134 for the same couple.”
 
“The medical Journal reported a 30-year-old smoker would pay up to $428 per month, in contrast to roughly $70 each month for a Walmart employee.”
 
“A family of four could pay a $962 premium, but the same Walmart family member would pay about $160.”
 
“Low premiums are not the only distinguishing feature of the Walmart plan. The retailer’s employees can use eight of the country’s most prestigious medical facilities, [Emphasis added]
including the Mayo Clinic, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.”
 
“…the real difference between Obamacare and Walmart can be seen in the levels of day-to-day access to doctors and hospitals [Emphasis added]…the BlueChoice exchange network
for President’s Obama’s hometown has very limited hospital participation. ‘In downtown Chicago, the key is the number of hospitals: 28,’ he said.”
 
“Walmart also offers a free-preventive health plan that mirrors the Obamacare plan. Its employees can take advantage of a wide range of free exams and counseling, including screenings for correctal
cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, diabetes, depression and special counseling for diet and obesity.”
 
“David Todd, an independent insurance agent based in Little Rock, Ark., also compared the health plans for the Examiner…Todd pointed to stark differences between the government plan and
Walmart. ‘If I buy a family plan on the exchange, it’s still $1,000 a month. And I can buy this for…[$160] on Walmart.” [Emphasis added]
 
“Walmart also gives cash to its employees for any health care expense. The annual payments run from $250 to $1,000 and are given at the beginning of the enrollment year in an account that can only
be used for health care expenses.”
 
“Walmart employees pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply of generic drugs and only $10 for eye exams through a separate vision plan.”
 
After listening to weeks of back and forth debate and downright arguing about Obamacare, I have concluded that no one, including Obama himself, really knows how it is going to work. It seems that
the President has been creating his signature legislation on the fly, by continually making changes to the program without returning to the legislative for their approval, which many observers believe is
unconstitutional.
 
Perhaps we should just contract the entire Obamacare mess out to Walmart and let them use their demonstrated corporate management skills to develop a sensible health care plan for the nation. 
 
Whatever they come up with is bound to be an improvement over the health plan that has been developed by Kathleen Sibelius and the Department of Health and Human Services to date.
 
© 2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 22:12 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



Thursday, January 2, 2014
What’s Wrong With Polygamy?
Customs around the world vary in many ways, everything from table manners to diet to attire to education, lifestyle in general, and, of course, marriage, including polygamy. In matters of marriage and cohabitation, in the good ol’ U.S. of A being married to more than one spouse at the same time is illegal, even when it is sanctioned by one’s religion, as is the case with certain Mormon sects or Muslims.
 
The history of polygamous marriages in the Mormon religion dates back to Joseph Smith, Jr., Mormonism’s founding prophet, in 1883, in Ohio. In 1862, it was outlawed by the Merrill anti-Bigamy Act, which was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. And, it was banned by the mainstream Mormon Church in 1890 and is grounds for excommunication.
 
If polygamy is OK in other countries, where it is accepted by certain religions, such as Islam, why isn’t it also OK in America? Perhaps more to the point: Why is polygamy illegal in the U.S. when it is perfectly legal in most jurisdictions to cohabitate with as many people as one might like? Can a man live with more than one woman if they are not married, or vice versa? The answer is, in general, yes. Furthermore, in some states, it has been, or is, possible to be married without benefit of clergy, or by a judge or some other government official. Such unions
are generally known as common-law marriages.
 
Common law marriage is recognized in sixteen states or jurisdictions. Specifically: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia (D.C.). 
 
Nine of these states recognize only common law marriages that are contracted within their borders, and five have “grandfathered” those that were established before a certain date. New Hampshire recognizes such marriages only for purposes of probate and Utah recognizes only those that have been validated by a court of administrative order.
 
In 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that recognizing Sharia law in Great Britain was not only inevitable but also desirable, arguing that “Secular law must be modified to accommodate religious sensibilities and that Muslims should not have to choose between the diametrically opposed alternatives of cultural or state loyalty, that they should be free to decide in which jurisdiction they can have certain ‘carefully specified matters’ decided.”
 
However, the Archbishop did not explain how he would deal with the conflicts that might arise between Sharia and secular or Christian based law.
 
I suppose he would leave that to the society at large to resolve, but it’s not difficult to guess how the Brits might react to one law for those who are Christians and another for Muslims. Sharia law, of course, permits men to have more than one wife, while women can be married to only one man.
 
In the U.S., there are still a few places where polygamy is practiced, albeit illegally. In 2009, The Los Angeles Times reported: "Texas authorities…indicted (Warren Jeffs) the leader of a polygamous sect…on charges of felony sexual assault on a minor (not polygamy), the first criminal charges to stem from a massive raid on the group's West Texas compound…”
 
"The media kept saying, 'Polygamist leader, polygamist leader,'" Mark Henkel of truthbearer.org noted, "…the case actually involved incest and the arranged marriage of a girl with her 19-year-old cousin. There wasn't anything [that] had to do with polygamy. [Jeffs] wasn't called an incest leader. He wasn't called an underage-marriage leader. He was called a polygamist leader."
 
Henkel, who estimated that there are 100,000 polygamists in America, believes American laws are hypocritical: "Someone like a Hugh Hefner will have a successful television show with three live-in girlfriends! And that's OK, and he's making great money, and that's all fine and great entertainment. But suddenly, if that man was to marry them, then suddenly he's a criminal. That's insane!"
 
University of Georgia Professor Patricia Dixon, who thought polygamy exploited women, conducted a study, and concluded that: "…it was not about men exploiting women, but that it is female centered.” After living with different polygamous communities for years, she was surprised to discover that polygamy is “female-centered. The women are the ones who are benefiting…”
 
Plural marriage is common around the world. In the United States, most get married in religious ceremonies but keep quiet about it because what they do is illegal. Professor Dixon commented:
“The families we met wonder why what they do is illegal. Clearly it's wrong if an older man arranges marriages of young kids, but when adults choose to live this kind of life, why is that evil?”
 
When they hear the word "polygamy," many people think of fundamentalist Mormons living in cults, but the truth is that there's lots of polygamy in America that has nothing to do with the Mormon Church.        
 
Religious leaders generally agree that polygamy is wrong, but Mark Henkel counters, "If they're saying that's immoral, they're calling the greatest heroes in the Bible ... immoral! ... Saying that Abraham, with his three wives, was immoral. Jacob had four wives. David had seven known named wives before Bathsheba."      
African Israelite, Prince Ben-Israel, who has four wives, calls plural marriage a civil-rights issue. "Who is this government that's in somebody's bedroom?...It was illegal for me to marry a white woman at one time…It was illegal for me to vote at one time. And if I had accepted somebody else's definition of what was right and wrong, I would still be riding in the back of the bus.”
 
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 22:31 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



Thursday, January 2, 2014
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
John Chiang, California’s State Controller, recently “released a list of the top 10 highest paid city jobs in California in 2012, and City Managers dominated the list.”
 
“The highest paid public employee in California’s cities and counties was the City Manager of Buena Park, whose total wages were listed at $545,394. 
South Gate’s Police Sergeant came in at number two, with a total wage of $486,044, and Pleasant Hill’s City Attorney came in third with a total wage of $486,209.”
 
“City Managers accounted for five of the top ten highest paid positions among city staff.”
 
“The tope 10 wages are as follows:
 (NOTE: To provide some perspective, I have added the population of the various cities)
 1. Buena Park City Manager: $545,394                                            Population:   82,155
 2. South Gate Police Sergeant: $486,044                                         Population:  88,180
 3. Pleasant Hill City Attorney: $465,209                                         Population:   33,831
 4. Milpitas Fire Battalion Chief – 40 hr: $461,212                           Population:   68,000
 5. Carlsbad City Manager: $459,222                                                Population: 109,318
 6. Fountain Valley City Manager: $459,144                                    Population:   56,464
 7. Menifee City Manager: $440,415                                                 Population:   81,474
 8. Temecula City Manager: $416, 994                                              Population: 105,208
 9. Millbrae Fire Chief: $416,931                                                       Population:   22,078
10. Vernon Fire Chief: $400,839                                                        Population:        112
 
“With 478 cities reporting, the Controller has accounted for 291,066 California city employees in 2012. The average number of residents per employee is 107
and the average wage for a city employee is $62,200 (though obviously this varies massively).”
 
Here are two additional stats that are useful in evaluating the foregoing information:
·        The annual compensation of Santa Barbara County’s new CEO is $230,088 (population: 431,249), and
·        The annual compensation of the CEO of Orange County (population 3.1 million) is $254,000.
 
Here’s how the numbers look when you factor in the population of the various cities and counties:
 1. Buena Park: $6.64 per resident
 2. South Gate: $5.51 per resident
 3. Pleasant Hill: $13.75 per resident
 4. Milpitas: $6.77 per resident
 5. Carlsbad: $4.20 per resident
 6. Fountain Valley: $8.13 per resident
 7. Menifee: $0.54 per resident
 8. Temecula: $3.96 per resident
 9. Millbrae: $18.88 per resident
10. Vernon: $3,578.92 per resident
11. Santa Barbara County: $0.53 per resident
12. Orange County: $0.082 per resident
 
There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why the compensation of city and county employees often exceeds that of people who work in the private sector. 
It may be due to union contracts or local politics, or both, but when you consider the pension plans of California’s governments, the comparison is even more stark. 
The same is true of Federal pensions.
 
Most of the people I know worked in private industry and must provide for their own retirement, which is generally far less than that of government employees.
So, in addition to having to pay for their own retirement, they are taxed to pay for both the salaries and retirement plans of local, state and federal government workers (and politicians).
 
I know, government employees, including members of Congress, pay into their own retirement plans, but my sense is that it is usually supplemented by contributions from government. 
 
A March 2012 article by AFP reported, “Canada ups retirement age in bid to balance budget…Canada’s center-right government called for the retirement age to be raised and for
major public service cuts…in an austerity budget that aims to balance the books by 2016.”
 
Another article (Washington Times, September 19, 2011) headlined, “Tiny Rhode Island faces huge headache to pay for pensions,” reported, “The state is on the hook for billions
of dollars in pension benefits owed to police officers, firefighters, teachers, judges and state workers. But the money’s not there. Projected investment gains never happened. 
State actuarial projections failed to keep up with public workers who are retiring earlier and living longer.”
 
Add the cost of Social Security and Medicare benefits to the mix, and it becomes quite clear that, at some point, the nation will be financially under water at every level.
 
What do we do then? 
 
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 22:21 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



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