Wednesday, August 31
But even in the darkest moments, the human spirit can persevere. Women use the available setting and tools at hand to satisfy the natural human yearning to learn and grow and improve.
So it's gratifying to read an article about women organizing small village farm unions in Afghanistan and diversifying crops, a development foreshadowed by Sofi's furtive work in Fear of Beauty.
"The unions, in updating age-old agricultural traditions, have helped ensure a more reliable and diverse food supply in an often famine-struck region. In the process, the women who run the groups are finding new status and empowerment," explains Mujib Mashal for the New York Times, who describes farms adding cauliflower, tomatoes, beans, all kinds of vegetables in addition to wheat and potatoes. Such diversification boosts both economies and nutrition. "The unions have put the women of Bamian on the front line of a critical struggle: the effort to shape a sustainable Afghan economy, away from dependence on foreign aid."
Foreign aid and the dangers of hidden agendas and over-dependence are also explored in Allure of Deceit.
The article's descriptions of Afghanistan are reminiscent of those in both novels - from the narrow and winding roads against treacherous mountainsides as well as the descriptions of support and lessons on new techniques from the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, so similar to the novel's stories about the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
Do check out the article - the story is inspiring, and the photos will bring a rush of memories about fictional Laashekoh.
Photo of Afghan village, courtesy of US Air Force, Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor, and Wikimedia Commons.
Friday, August 26
The price hike in EpiPens, used by many to control severe allergic reactions, exposes the many problems of running health care like a business. Buyouts in the pharmaceutical industry and fierce competition allow companies to hike prices and gouge desperate customers. Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, the company that makes the device, complains that she is frustrated and that "Our health care system is in crisis."
The system is in crisis due to greed and selfishness of a few - those who seek profit from selling life-saving health care, medicines and treatments at any cost.
Charity is not the answer. "On Thursday the pharmaceutical company announced it would give a $300 coupon to lower- and middle-income customers who have to pay for the device out of pocket because they lack health coverage or have a high-deductible insurance plan (previously, it offered a $100 discount card)," reports Jordan Weissmann for Slate. "Giving patients a 50 percent break after increasing prices 500 percent is not exactly a sweeping act of charity, even if it does help some families erase their entire co-pays."
Charity does not necessarily provide comprehensive coverage. Donors may be generous and kind, but observers can never be certain because other motivations may be involved including tax write-offs, careers, reputations, celebrity status and more.
Prices vary around the world. US customers pay more than $600 for an EpiPen package. "Canadians pay around $120 (Canadian) for a single auto-injector, with the price varying somewhat, depending on an individual pharmacy’s dispensing fee," reports the Globe and Mail. The pack was less than $100 a decade ago.
Corporations are being put on notice. US consumers are becoming less docile and conducting more price comparisons.
"I'm running a business" is the hardhearted claim from Mylan's CEO on CNBC. No one should be outraged. She merely spoke the truth about the status of health care in the United States. She stands as exhibit A that some people work in the health care field, or rather industry, for the wrong reasons.
Allure of Deceit is about a large charity and the motivations for providing health care in the developing world.
Photo courtesy of Mylan.