Saturday, March 30, 2013

What Does the Bunny Have to Do With Easter?

Happy Easter Everyone,

Easter is synonymous with the risen Christ, spring and the Easter bunny.  All Christians go to church on Sunday to celebrate Jesus dying for our sins and rising on Easter to sit at the right hand of God. 

We all know this, but I bet you don't know about the Easter bunny.  There is nothing in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed Easter Bunny.  There's not a passage in the Bible about children painting eggs, hunting for eggs and getting baskets of scrumptious goodies either.  We all know real rabbits don't lay eggs, don't we.  Smile!

So what does the bunny have to do with Easter?  The rabbit has nothing to do with Easter.   Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks all stem from pagan roots.  All of these things were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

According to the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration - and the origin of the Easter Bunny - can be traced back to the 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses.  The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility.  Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox.  Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal's high reproduction rate.

The first Easter Bunny legend was documented in the 1500s.  By 1680, the first story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published.  These legends were brought to the United States in the 1700s, when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, according to the Center for Children's Literature and Culture.

The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs in soon followed.  Eventually, nests became baskets and colorful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts.  I'm wondering if Easter will become like Christmas; more and more gift oriented with ever bigger gifts.

Here are a couple traditions celebrated around the world:

"In Lancashire (England) on Easter eve boys and men have been in the habit of touring the towns and villages as 'Pace-eggers' begging for eggs before performing the 'Pace-Egging' or Pasch (i.e., Easter) play."

In Greece each person in a group bangs is red Easter Egg (not knowing that it is the symbol of the Goddess) against the eggs of all the others present in turn, saying, "Christ is risen,' and receives the reply 'He is risen indeed.'"

I think most people would be surprised that the word Easter goes all the way back to the Tower of Babel.  The origin begins not long after the biblical Flood.  For more information on this subject you can go to the sources below. 

Have a wonderful Sunday.  See you next week.

Sandy AKA Sandra K. Marshall   

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bullies, Facebook, Rape and U-Tube

What is going on with our kids?  I know there are a lot of good kids in this world, but we don’t hear nearly enough about them.  Instead, we see bullying in our schools, on buses and social media, especially Facebook.

None of you have missed the news about a young 16 year old girl being raped in Ohio.  She was drunk, passed out and being treated like a bag of trash.  Two young men raped her while other young kids stood around laughing, taking photos with their cell phones and shouting, ‘she’s so raped.’

There is something so wrong with this image.  Three lives have been totally ruined, and the town needs to come together to see the truth of the matter.  These kids were underage and shouldn’t have been drinking and there should have been adults there to stop this scene.  Where were the teachers, coach or parents?

These kids were normal kids, but whenever you get any group together whether adults or children a mob mentality develops and everyone loses control.  All it would have taken was for one kid to use his cell phone to call 911 or the police to stop this rape.  Instead, they used their cell phones to take pictures of the rape and post them on U-Tube.  I have no idea what they were thinking or thought they were doing.  From there laughter, they obviously thought the whole scene was funny.

To me this scene was disgusting.  Have none of these kids been taught right from wrong?  They obviously have no respect for each other, or anyone else.  It’s a travesty for the town not to band together and stand behind the young girl who was raped.  By not doing it you may have another suicide because this will be impossible for her to live with unless she gets outside help. 

The boys will need help, too.  They will be scared at what they have facing them in the future, but I hope someone is able to get through to them that what they did was wrong.  Both boys are good-looking, but I don’t see remorse on their faces.  I just see fear and they have every reason to be afraid because there are consequences for every action.  Who taught them this kind of behavior is okay. They'll learn a very hard lesson now; it's not okay. The young lady was trying to fit in with the in-crowd, but she has learned a hard lesson, too.  It's not worth getting drunk to fit in.

I hope all the families of these kids involved in this tragedy sit down and have long talks with their children.  This is not a time to take sides.  It’s a time to think of your children and be there for all of them.  The parents and teachers might even ask yourselves what you should have done to prevent this horrible event.  You might ask: what did I do to contribute to this act?  

This town is in the limelight now, and I guarantee there will be a lot of people around the world judging your town.  What I have to say to the other towns is that you better check into your own schools to see what is going on.  Boys calling girls whores and girls calling each other whores in classrooms.  These kids have not been taught to respect each other or themselves.  Do parents know how their kids are acting out?  If they don’t know; they should be finding out.

Bullying and abuse has to stop in our schools.  It’s becoming an epidemic and starting at even younger ages than high school.  Something has to be done.  I don’t know what the answer is, but could spending more quality time with your kids help. 

What do you think we should do to save the children? 

Have a great Sunday, and I'll see you next week. 

Best always,
Sandra K. Marshall

Sunday, March 17, 2013

TSA versus Airlines and their Employees

We're hearing a lot on the news about allowing small knives on airlines, and I've got an opinion to share with you.  Since, I worked for an airline (TWA) for thirty-six years I have strong opinions on this issue. 

Even a small knife or a pair of manicure scissors is enough to kill a person if it's in the hands of someone who knows how to use the instrument, and is deranged enough to use the item to maim someone.  Oh, but hey, the risk factor is low. 

What does the TSA mean by saying the risk factor is low in having small knives on board an airline?  They mean the risk factor is so low that it's not likely to happen, and it would only affect one or two people and not the whole plane like an explosion would. 

All of this is true, but what if your family member had a pair of scissors or small knife stuck in their carotid artery and bled to death; would you think the risk factor was low?  Another thing you might ask yourself is: Who carries the burden of protecting the passengers on the airlines?  Is it TSA or the airline?

Can you sue the TSA if someone is killed on board an airline because they allowed small knives to go through, or will the airline be sued?  The airlines have been in trouble for many years, and they can't afford more lawsuits. 

I am totally against any objects being carried on board an airplane, whether sharp or dull, because they can be used as a weapon in the right hands.  I suggest the TSA should do their jobs, or else replace them. 

My hubby retired from an airline, too, but he worked for a contractor hired by the TSA as security at our local airport for two years.  His insight is that the TSA doesn't want to do their job, and since they're a part of Homeland Security you have to wonder what kind of job they're doing. 

TSA and sub-contractors working for the TSA were trained to search for all sharp instruments including knives, razor blades, etc.  If they don't have to do that job now then they are only doing 75% of the job they should be doing.  He calls them a bunch of nincompoops.

How do you feel about knives being carried on airplanes?  Do you think it's worth the risk?

Have a great week, and I'll see you next Sunday. 

Best always,

Sandra K. Marshall

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Bit of History about Medicare

Medicare is a federal social insurance program covering over 40 million people over the age of 65 and 8 million people with permanent disabilities. 

Medicare has four basic programs, Parts A through D.  Part A covers hospital insurance including inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility stays, hospice care and home health visits.  Part A is primarily financed by a 1.45% payroll tax on all wage and salary income for the worker and the employer.  Self-employed persons pay the full 2.9% of earnings.

Example:  You make $50,000 a year.  You pay $725 a year and your employer pays $725.00 a year.  If you’re self-employed, you pay $1,450 a year.

While Social Security taxes are capped at $110,100, there is no maximum wage base for Medicare taxes.  An individual making $1,000,000 a year would pay a Medicare payroll tax of $14,500, and his employer would pay an equal amount. 

Medicare Part B is a voluntary program that helps pay for doctor bills and other outpatient health care. Medicare beneficiaries pay a premium of $99.90 (goes up every year, and it’s more than this) a month for their part B coverage.  Part B is usually deducted from the beneficiary’s monthly Social Security check.  The premium is set annually to cover about 25 percent of Part B spending, while the other 75 percent is paid from general revenues.

Medicare Part C is known as Medicare Advantage (MA), and gives seniors the option of receiving their benefits through private health plan. 

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug benefits through private plans that contract with Medicare and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans.  The average monthly premium for Part D is $31.

Income-Related Part B Premium—Beneficiaries with incomes above $85,000 a year ($170,000 for couples) are responsible for paying a higher share of the cost of Part B.  Medicaid pays Part B premiums for low-income beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in Medicaid; beneficiaries with higher incomes pay an income-related Part B premium that ranges from $139.90 to $319.70 per month.  Medicare provides low-income subsidies to those who qualify.

Medicare under went its first major overhaul when “diagnosis related groups”  -DRGS- entered the medical lexicon in 1983.  By 1984 hospital payments were determined on the basis of a patient’s diagnosis rather than on daily charges.

Medicare officials hoped to cut program costs by creating a new payment system that would encourage hospitals not over utilize medical resources.  Instead of paying for each medical service and what it costs the hospital, Medicare began paying for what it deemed the average cost to treat a patient with a particular diagnosis.  If you were paying for bundled diagnoses, then that would give the hospitals some good reason to be attentive to the cost of taking care of diagnosis.  There was a lot of hope this would be the panacea, but instead some hospitals cleverly unpacked the diagnoses to make the most bang for each patient treated at a hospital. 

DRGS had a noticeable effect by decreasing hospital stays, but the doctors (who make the call to admit a patient to the hospital) weren't seeing a financial incentive to have the patient admitted to the hospital.  This kept hospital costs down for insurance companies. 

In 1992, Medicare adopted the resource-based relative value scale (RBRVS) on which to base physician payments.  This method of payment attempted to pay based on work effort and practice expenditures, rather than on historic charges.  They were primarily concerned with medical inflation.  Another reason for moving to RBRVS was to help primary care physicians get paid more, but it only helped a little.

This is just a small portion of the problem with Medicare.  The day may come when Medicare will only be available for the poor and the rest will just have to have supplemental insurance to cover medical expenses. 

My sources are National Academy of Social Insurance; and Medpage Today's;   You can find a lot more information on these sites and others.  

Have a great week, and I'll be back next Sunday. 

Best always,
Sandra K. Marshall

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Raise the Age for Social Security and Medicare

Should the age for social security and Medicare be raised in order to take care of the deficit?  Right now, anyone can retire and draw social security at sixty-two, and receive Medicare at sixty-five.  You say we have that right because we paid into these entitlements (I don’t understand why they’re called entitlements) for forty, fifty years, or more.  We’re still paying into Medicare every month as the money is being taken out of social security checks from retirees.

I'm going to focus on social security because this topic is too huge to talk about along with Medicare.  Next week, I'll talk about Medicare.  This topic causes a lot of ill will among young and old, but it's got to be addressed. 

Okay, here goes my feeble attempt to throw some light on this subject to help everyone understand Social Security.  We all pay into social security with our FICA taxes taken monthly, biweekly or weekly.  This money goes into an interest bearing trust fund.  Social security has it's own budget.

At one time the social security trust fund had 2.6 trillion in it paid through payroll taxes.  Since 1982 social security has had excesses from $89 million to $190 million, all loaned to the government.  By 2020, the government will be in debt to social security by 3.1 trillion.  Now, that's huge. 

By law, social security surpluses must be loaned to the federal government, a requirement established in the original Social Security act of 1935. (I didn't know that, did you?)  The federal government is legally required to pay back this money to the social security program with interest, and it supposedly has done so.  (I would like to see the records.)  This money becomes part of the national debt. 

As of December 31, 2011, the U.S. Government owed $2, 679 billion to the trust fund (part of our national debt).  This is the latest information I could find.  There is a lot of information out there, and it's possible I missed something more recent. 

Here are my information sources:  Social Security Trust Fund - Forbes magazine contributor, Merrill Matthews - 7-13-11; Business Finance and Law by Luann PothuisjeODell - a year ago; Just Facts, a resource for independent thinkers by James D. Agresti and Stephen F. Cardone - January 27, 2011, revised 1-12-13.

I welcome all comments, but there will be no attacks here.  This is the time for a healthy discussion on social security, and we all need to know what is going on. 

Thank you for joining in this discussion, and I'll see you next Sunday.  Have a great week.
Sandra K. Marshall