Target Accommodates Muslims, But Not Christians

Target Accommodates Muslims, But Not Christians

With all of the publicity given to Target lately for their support of men being allowed to go into women’s restrooms and vice versa, and their support for the latest assault upon conservative, Christian values, it would be interesting to delve into what drives a company that is obviously committed to losing millions, if not billions, of dollars of revenue to support their adopted agenda. With a boycott that has gained over 1.2 million adherents now, Target is not going to benefit from their new policy for sure. Certainly if there is that level of commitment to a cause, one would expect some consistency in their policies. Even if one disagrees with a position taken by another, if there is sincerity present, there is still some degree of admiration for being committed to something, although being sincere is not everything because it is very easy to be sincerely wrong.

Target recently issued an April 19, 2016, statement1 to reaffirm their policies: “we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune2, “Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said it is not a new policy, but the retailer wanted to clarify its position given questions it has received from both customers and employees amid the national debate. Executives sent an e-mail to store leaders earlier this week to convey the message. ‘It’s a restatement of a policy,’ she said. ‘It’s just us being very overt in stating it.'” They are very committed to what they consider “equality” and “inclusivity”: “Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.”3

Target is putting forth statements to appear to be so gracious to anyone, no matter what they believe or do; customers of all types should just come in their stores because they just don’t want anyone to feel offended or out of place in their stores. That is how they are trying to publicize their position. Just back in 2007, Target took a position of accommodation when it came to Muslims who work in their stores and do not want to handle pork.4 According to the NBC News article, “The Star Tribune reported this past week that some Muslim cashiers at local Targets had declined to scan pork products such as bacon because doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. They would ask other cashiers to ring up such purchases, or sometimes customers would scan those items themselves, the newspaper reported. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. has now offered its local Muslim cashiers who object to handling pork the option of wearing gloves while cashiering, shifting to other positions or transferring to other nearby stores. ‘We are confident that this is a reasonable solution for our guests and team members,’ Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press on Saturday. … Suhara Robla, who works at the SuperTarget in St. Louis Park, told the Star Tribune that more than a dozen Muslim cashiers were asked Thursday to do other jobs.

‘They told all of us who don’t touch pork to go to the sales floor,’ she told the newspaper. ‘They really didn’t say why. They just said it was a new policy.’”

However, that same equality and inclusivity does not seem to apply to anyone who just wants to be able to go to the bathroom or fitting room and not have a male voyeur next to them filming them or worse567. Target is causing much worse inequality and loss of inclusivity with their policies which do nothing more than promote immorality while attempting to shove it down the throats of conservative Christians who they do not mind shutting out of their stores. Target can figure out a way to accommodate Muslims and their faith practices, but according to an August 2014 article from OneNewsNow8, “Target is filing legal briefs in court cases intended to win marriage rights for homosexuals and lesbians.” Target wants to put forth that they just want everyone to feel welcome, but actively are working toward tearing down conservative, Christian values. If Target cares so much, then why not just have a third bathroom for those who want to claim a different gender or don’t care while accommodating the vast majority of people who want to feel safe in a bathroom. They now have policies that make many people feel very unwelcome and if objections are voiced, they just don’t seem to care, unless it is possibly from someone of a different faith other than Christianity.

Another Way to Deny Health Coverage

Medication BottleMost people who have to take any prescription medication, or need certain imaging tests, that is covered through health insurance are familiar with the procedure of having to get prior authorization (a “PA number”) for the medication to be approved before it can be obtained at the pharmacy, or before the test can be done. Just a few years ago, this requirement was only requested for the most expensive medications or imaging studies. It is certainly understandable in those instances and which should be few in number enough that it is not too time consuming for physician offices to complete. Some companies make the process simpler than others and some make it completely ridiculous.

Because of the present, never-ending increase in the number of medications and procedures for which insurance companies want prior approval for patients, it has become nothing less than an aggravating intrusion into the physician-patient relationship. Insurance companies frequently will communicate to patients that the medication is waiting to get approval by the physician; I have always thought that is what giving a prescription is already. All of this is nothing more than an attempt to deny coverage for patients and then have a way to blame it on the physician. What the physician prescribed is what they approved, it is just not what the insurance company approved; that usually means that it isn’t cheap enough for them; quality is not the primary consideration.

At the beginning of every year, when patients are getting onto new Medicare Advantage health plans or their current plans have formulary changes, there is a barrage of wastefully sent letters wanting changes in medications that the patient is already taking or that are new. There are so many of these letters which come to physicians that many are thrown into the trash without even opening them. There is not enough healthcare staff in clinics to handle all of this mail which does nothing for patient care, but only serves to lower insurance company costs. If all of these changes in medications are saving insurance companies so much money, then it is not obviously making its way back to the patients; insurance rates and medication costs continue to climb.

To give an example, I have a patient just this last week in which it took ten days to get a generic medication approved for her. She has been on this hypertension medication for 2 and ½ years. This patient has to take five medications from different classes to control her blood pressure and she has a very limited income that makes it impossible for her to do much with her life that she would like. She has multiple medical problems and it took a long time to get her blood pressure controlled with the current regimen. A nephrologist has been in agreement with her medication regimen also as we tried to help her get controlled and finally achieved that with continual monitoring by the patient. Earlier this week, she was almost in tears and very anxious that she was going to have a stroke because her insurance company’s drug plan (a Medicare Advantage company) stated that her medication was being prescribed at a level that was not FDA approved, so they would not approve it. This medication was double the usual dosage, but it took that to get her controlled. Two physicians have agreed that this medication is needed, the patient is pleased that it is working, and there are no adverse effects. Despite attempts to get the insurance company to approve this, they kept denying coverage until, once again, I had to take more time to get on the telephone and request to speak with one of their physicians who could hopefully understand this and make an intelligent decision to approve this patient’s medication. She was down to the last day of the medication and could not afford to buy the medication herself, even though it is generic, because medications have been inflated in cost so much. After discussing this for quite a while and asking for a physician to call me, I went home late that evening and never did get a call until the next afternoon. However, the insurance company had sent another fax to the clinic that next morning and had reversed their denial already. I was left wondering why all of that was necessary to achieve what could be so simple.

The practice of medicine and provision of healthcare services must get back to what should be its mission: taking care of the patient. Thankfully, the Mississippi Legislature is in the process of doing something to help physicians and patients with the House already passing HB 301 which would simplify the prior approval process greatly in that there would be a requirement of using the same PA form for every insurance company which can be submitted online, can’t be longer than two pages, and would automatically grant approval if not answered within two days. Thank you to the MS Legislature for putting some common sense back into this process.

The Broken SNAP

Much debate is occurring regarding governmental spending in the United States for a wide array of programs.  There are many solutions being proffered for reducing the overspending and everything must be examined in the process.  Every program in place has objectives that can be measured to see if the specific program is meeting those objectives while also assessing for other effects of the program that may not have been initially anticipated.  Each of us certainly does that in our own households. We look at what we are spending on a particular area and decide if the purpose of it is being fulfilled while also deciding how that expense is affecting otherwise the household.  Then we make changes depending upon what we find when we assess it.  It is certainly beyond the scope of this article to examine the entire topic, so we will have to focus a little more on one major area of expense.  A major expense in most households is that of buying food.

One can spend a lot of money buying food or it can be less of an expense depending upon what is bought. I remember when I was in college and later, during medical school, I had to make the money I had last for quite a while.  Therefore, I had to budget out what I knew I would have for food expenses and I would stay under a certain monthly amount which wasn’t much.  If I bought a more expensive food item, I couldn’t afford to get other needed items.  I never went hungry, but I couldn’t buy everything I wanted by any means either.  There was not much meat bought except canned tuna and getting anything that had a brand name on it was a luxury. When it’s your own money, you examine things more carefully and buy what is truly needed.  This is a lesson that our federal government does not seem to know; leaders in all parties know how to spend more to appease whom they want to vote for them.  There isn’t much thought regarding what is actually being accomplished or effectively examining the other effects of their spending of other people’s money.  Just as much as I would be careful and analyze what I am spending along with assessing the nutritional value of what is in my own food budget, the government should be doing the same thing. However, they aren’t doing this in the manner that they should. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP; used to be called food stamps) is out of control.  The SNAP has broken.

The SNAP program, as reported by the USDA, has expanded from serving 26 million people in 2007 to the current level of almost 45 million people with expenses increasing, respectively, from $3.6 billion per month to $6.2 billion per month. Obesity rates are continuing to climb while the public is asked to believe that the amount spent on SNAP is justified.  In the last week of time, I have heard two different personal testimonies of witnessing SNAP payments being approved for a cake maker who got over $800 for a wedding cake for one recipient while another person buys large quantities of meat with SNAP money and then that meat is sold for cash from an ice chest on the street.  The state of Mississippi recently reported that there were possibly $2.7 million in fraudulent benefits paid with 1,705 people disqualified during the last budget year due to these discovered improper payments.  In 2000, about 10% of the Mississippi population was on the program while now it is 23% of the population.  The statistics regarding fraudulent payments in Mississippi also reflect the same problem on a national scale.

While there is plenty of evidence of trafficking of EBT cards along with other fraud, there is other waste occurring in this program that is supposed to be helping the poor who are truly deprived of the ability to buy food.  I can remember when it was shameful to even have to get something free from the government during the days of “commodities” that certainly were not what we think of today when that term is used.  People were given staple foods that were truly needed and not allowed to choose such extravagant food items that people who earned the money can hardly afford.  If one needs a lesson on this, just visit your grocery store around the first week of the month and notice how the buggy loads of expensive meats are being purchased.  While there are attempts to educate people with regard to what they should be eating and this makes sense that efforts should be made to help people understand what they should eat, many already know this information and still choose to eat in unhealthy ways.  There should be some changes made in regard to how the money given to people on EBT cards is allowed to be spent so that healthy choices are encouraged in a more direct manner.  An $800 wedding cake on an EBT card – give me a break!  At the rate of inflation for groceries, it won’t be long before greater numbers forget trying to get a break – give me a SNAP card!  It appears that there is no shame in taking from others anymore and, for many, it’s not improving their health, but worsening it.

Conservative Backlash or Bow Down

The major media talking heads have been all jockeying to couch Romney’s loss in terms that are the most favorable to their own biases.  There is an array of attitudes from downright depressed and despondent to outright maddening rage.  It is the usual display of emotions that we all experience when there is a loss: (1) denial, followed by (2) anger, (3) bargaining, and then finally, (4) acceptance; there is wide variability in how long individuals remain in each of these stages and some stay in some of these stages quite a while.  Depending upon how long the stage of anger remains, there will certainly be conservative backlash, and then the latter stages’ prevalence will dictate how much bowing down occurs to what liberals think they deserve in return for the retaining of the presidency.

This week we have seen several stories of employers immediately laying off employees after the election and the stock market certainly has nose-dived as well.  Elections have consequences for sure.  Many feel that they are being forced to work hard to pay for those who choose to not do so and know how to bilk the government for what they need.  What is happening is terrible for our country and is exactly what happens in any socialistic country when people begin losing their incentives for hard work.  It will be hard to stop this trend from continuing given the current administration’s ideals of take from those who can and do, to give to those who could and won’t.  There is a certain level of acceptance in this approach to dealing with the current dire economic forecast and not just anger here.  Many employers held out hoping that policies would change and enable them to expand again with some economic certainty, but with those hopes dashed by the gimme crowds, they have adopted a defensive strategy to enable them to ride out what is seen as the coming storms.

A different level of acceptance is seen in those who think all is lost and want to turn conservative truth into half-baked, libservative pie that no one is going to want to eat because it’s just readily apparent that it’s a desperate attempt to masquerade as a partial liberal just long enough to get elected or stay elected.   We have always gotten bad legislation each time conservatives get into power and then decide to put forth liberal ideas because they think it’ll make them popular enough to stay in office.  This bowing down does nothing more than brings contempt and disrespect.  The bad ideas of the liberals are doomed to fail and conservatives don’t need to despair and change, but be patient and the opportunity for making progress again will most certainly present itself with enough time.

This American ship is seen by many as sinking right now and the life boats are being lowered by those who are already jumping ship in mass numbers to protect what they deem is theirs.  For those who don’t have a life boat, many of them are demanding all of the stuff that they can get before the collapse occurs.  Some say that what will be is just meant to be, but I don’t agree.  God’s will is always that He be lifted up and that all people would come to know Him.  God lets us have free will to make good and bad choices while being blessed, or cursed, depending upon those choices made.  This ship doesn’t have to sink, but we must do some better choosing as a nation soon with everyone grabbing a bucket and throwing the water back out of the hull.  From the way it’s looking now, many of those who are doing that are giving up now.  This is not the time for that kind of thought.  This is the time for those who will “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  This is the time for those who will go forth “as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  God’s wisdom is there for the asking if we will ask Him, and then act on what He tells us in His Word and through our prayers.

Let’s Preserve Freedom, Not Give It Up

My wife and I had a quick trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this last weekend for a medical convention and while there had several hours of time on Saturday to do some sight-seeing.  We walked so many blocks from the hotel where we stayed that we were wore out by nightfall, but saw many good people and places.  Visiting Independence Hall and standing in the same room where the signers of Declaration of Independence committed their lives toward the pursuit of freedom that has now influenced the whole world is nothing short of inspirational. Studying the history of our U.S. Constitution in the Constitution Center across from Independence Hall provides a sense of just how great our American history really is.  In between those two places is the home of the Liberty Bell inscribed with a scripture from Leviticus 25:10, “…Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.”  As I walked down a sidewalk directly in front of Independence Hall, there were brilliant trees changing their colorful displays while a lone bird hidden in the leaves chirped out some music that sounded like a song of freedom.  Just a few blocks away is a Quaker church building into which visitors are welcome and where the unpolished, plain, wood floor from the early 1800’s is still trod upon by those present day adherents to a way of life which greatly influenced many movements toward freedom in our country including ending slavery and recognition of the rights of women.  While these several blocks stand to testify to the power of the message of freedom, only several blocks away there were those sitting alongside the streets who certainly appeared to not be very free, but bound by the chains of addiction.  Freedom isn’t free, can’t be taken for granted, and must be protected by living responsibly.

In these final weeks before our upcoming elections, I think everyone needs to consider what freedom really means.  Many people think that they will have freedom by giving up their freedoms for what they perceive as greater protection and security of greater government control of our lives.  There are many who want the government to handle everything in their lives.  They are willing to give up their guns and depend upon the government to fully protect them while neglecting the fact that only criminals will have guns then.  They want to give up trying to provide for their health and want to turn over their entire healthcare to the ultimate control of the government also while accepting a lower level of possible care available to them.  They want to allow greater control of the federal government over our schools and can’t see that it doesn’t help; our graduates are less competitive now than in many decades.  If one likes the way our schools are going, then allow the government to control more of our healthcare and we will get a similar system that doesn’t work.  Centralized government with tremendous power is what our forefathers fled to avoid and sought independence to leave.  The well-intentioned desire by many to make government the god of our lives is doomed for failure.

“The greatest temptation to evil that humanity ever suffers is the temptation to make a “Jerusalem” happen by human means.  Human means are absolutely indispensable in the world as it is.  This is God’s intention.  We are supposed to act, and our actions are to count.  But there is a limit on what human arrangements can accomplish.  They alone cannot change the heart and spirit of the human being.  Because of this, the instrumentalities invoked to make “Jerusalem” happen always wind up eliminating truth, or mercy, or both.  World history as well as small-scale decision making demonstrates this.  It is seen in the ravages of dictatorial power, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the death by minutiae that a bureaucracy tends to impose.  It is well known how hard it is to provide a benign order with human means.  For the problem, once again, is in the human heart.  Until it fully engages with the rule of God, the good that we feel must be cannot come.  It will at a certain point be defeated by the very means implemented to produce it” (The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, 1997, Harper Collins).

Want to Live Longer?

Many times I’ve asked octogenarians if they thought they would live to be that age.  I’ve noted that the great majority actually say that they did not think they would be that age.  Besides the humbleness that most have to be blessed with that many years of life, there are other commonalities, such as having a history of eating from a home garden that has been worked yearly while providing for routine exercise for many years, a strong Christian faith, and a history of a strong, stable marriage.  All of these characteristics are associated with living a longer life and many studies back up these statements.

The Bible is full of advice on living a long life.  One example, of many, is that we are instructed, by the fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments, to honor our father and mother if we want to live a long life.  Being able to honor one’s father and mother involves the development of many characteristics of living that provide for living a long life.  Those who will not do that are rebellious and that certainly leads to many behaviors with potential for the shortening of life span.  Even when there has been a negative parental experience, deciding upon forgiveness releases one from bitterness, depression, anxiety, and ill health effects when parents are honored solely because they are father and mother.

I’ve said for several years now that I expected to see evidence soon of a decline in life expectancy in our country and, unfortunately, that has come into being.  An article in the New York Times on September 20, “Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.”, was based upon a study published in August in Health Affairs.  In reference to the study, John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, stated, “We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling.”  The steepest decline was seen among white women without a high school diploma and this group had a loss of five years of life expectancy between 1990 and 2008; among white men, it was three years lost. Among blacks and Hispanics of the same educational level, life expectancy rose, but blacks have a lower total life expectancy than whites and Hispanics have the longest life expectancy of the three groups.  There are large gaps in life expectancy between those with a high school diploma and those without one.  In the United Nations rankings among countries, American women were 14th place in 1985 and now are at 41st place.

Speculation abounds as to the various reasons why life expectancy is decreasing for whites.  The authors bring out various valid suggestions such as the fact that obesity rates are increasing,  smoking rates and prescription drug overdosing are high among less educated white women, and the least educated Americans many times lack health insurance.  It must also be considered that the rates of unmarried women having children has increased which usually brings with it a lack of educational achievement and income while many single mothers have to work low-wage jobs and are very stressed with negative health effects. Other factors that the authors have not considered include the rise of Hepatitis C and HIV during the time period of this study.

It was stated in the abstract of the study, “The message for policy makers is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.”  I do not agree with this assessment.  We will not see life span be as great as it can be just because education is enhanced and possibly more people get high school diplomas. Educational achievement does contribute to income levels, but higher income levels alone do not guarantee a longer life either.  I think the real issue here is that not having a high school diploma is associated with other factors which together reflect a greater potential for a shorter life span; in other words, the absence of the high school diploma is a sign of greater problems, rather than being the primary problem.  That primary problem is the detrimental lifestyle choices being made which are also being reflected through the alarming statistics of the breakdown of the traditional family. Although it is ultimately up to the individual and the choices that are made, policy makers can positively increase life spans by promotion of the traditional family through incentives for people to get married and stay married combined with halting the subsidizing of bad behavior.  In the present day, the right lifestyle will usually result in one getting a high school diploma, not vice versa.  Just ask those around you who have made it to being eighty years of age and above.  They’ll gladly share with you some wisdom of how they made it to that age range.  The recognition and respect of a higher moral authority than any human is the beginning of wisdom and a life that will be as long as it can be.

Fracking Gag Orders

The reported tremendous potential for producing oil through the fracking procedure could result in many changes in our country and certainly would improve our economy. While there is great potential for positive changes, we all would be well served by following a conservative approach of fully investigating and considering all possibilities because all change isn’t always good. There are at least thirty states which have active natural gas drilling occurring and about 90% of these are using fracking.

It is not doubtful to anyone about the benefits of having greater production of oil in our country and it is certainly easier and more pleasant to focus solely on these benefits. However, there are questions in many people’s minds regarding the safety issues. To be more specific, there are many questions being raised concerning health effects of the chemicals that are being used in the fracking process which can sometimes leak into the water supply. This concern is not just theoretical because there are instances in which this has occurred. Being sure what is being done in our country is of utmost importance since it is certainly crucial to have clean water.

Health problems started arising in Pennsylvania patients who had homes near drilling sites that used fracking. A Pennsylvania plastic surgeon, Amy Pare, MD, was seeing patients who had “bleeding, oozing lesions covering their faces.” Dr. Pare became suspicious and did tests which confirmed that the patients had phenol and hippuric acid in their urine; these two chemicals are rarely found in humans, but would be there if ingestion of hydrocarbons and toluene, respectively, were occurring. The patients reportedly cleared up after they quit drinking their well water. One lady in Pennsylvania, Sherry Vargson, leased her mineral rights and was recently pictured demonstrating how she can light a match causing the water to catch on fire when she turns on her kitchen faucet; methane has leached into her well water. There are many residents of northeastern Pennsylvania who have been forced into relying upon outside water now because their water is nonpotable.

Due to concern about what these physicians were seeing, many requested information regarding what chemicals were being used in the fracking process. What was discovered was much resistance to transparency to the public. Physicians in Pennsylvania and other states have been forced into signing confidentiality agreements promising that they will only use the information for patient treatment. This is effectively a “gag order”. About a dozen state laws are in place due to concerns about chemical exposures to the public from fracking. A nephrologist, Alfonso Rodriquez, MD, is challenging the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection saying that the law is vague and violates the First Amendment rights of physicians.

The energy companies have concerns about their trade secrets of what chemical mixtures they are using being copied by other companies who haven’t invested in finding what works best for fracking. This is a legitimate concern, but it must be weighed against the health of the public. There should be complete transparency by the energy companies regarding what chemicals they are using. If they have concerns about trade secrets, they could certainly reveal all of the possible chemicals that might be used without giving specific details of their exact mixture; this is much like what is done with food products which non-specifically list their ingredients and don’t impair their ability to provide a custom-made product that they can still protect. At least the public could have some idea about what might be a problem rather than leaving everyone in the dark about their health being possibly negatively affected.