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This Christmas

Donny Hathaway:

Secret Santas

I know times are hard everywhere, and just getting a kid a Christmas present isn’t going to solve the larger problems. But I’m so touched that so many people all over the country are doing this, anyway:

A nationwide game of Secret Santa is impacting K-Mart stores across the country this holiday season, as anonymous donors are picking up the layaway tabs for families they’ve never even met.

The movement has reached the K-Mart in Hamilton, New Jersey in which more than a dozen layaway accounts have been paid in full by Good Samaritans, according to the store’s manager.

“The range actually varies from $30 to over $1000,” said Ivan Collazo. “You have customers coming in paying multiple layaways for customers.”

While Collazo claims the store still has a layaway balance of over $20,000, he’s still amazed by the massive showing of generosity.

“You have females, you have males, different types of ages and nationalities,” said Collazo. “The bottom line is that they’re just coming in. It’s people helping people, knowing that there’s a need out there and for some reason K-Mart was chosen for this and we’re very excited to be a part of it.”

It really is inspiring, isn’t it?

The sad memories of layaways lost prompted at least one good Samaritan to pay off the accounts of five people at an Omaha Kmart, said Karl Graff, the store’s assistant manager.

“She told me that when she was younger, her mom used to set up things on layaway at Kmart, but they rarely were able to pay them off because they just didn’t have the money for it,” Graff said.

He called a woman who had been helped, “and she broke down in tears on the phone with me.

She wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway and was afraid their kids weren’t going
to have anything for Christmas.”

“You know, 50 bucks may not sound like a lot, but I tell you what, at the right time, it may as well be a million dollars for some people,” Graff said.

Graff’s store alone has seen about a dozen layaway accounts paid off in the last 10 days, with the donors paying $50 to $250 on each account.

“To be honest, in retail, it’s easy to get cynical about the holidays, because you’re kind of grinding it out when everybody else is having family time,” Graff said. “It’s really encouraging to see this side of Christmas again.”

Also: Chicago, the Bay area, Florida, Utah, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. If you find one in your local paper, leave it in the comments.

Short on donations

Looks like everyone’s coming up short this year. If you can spare it, please send money to local charitable organizations or drop off an unwrapped toy for Toys For Tots no later than Monday, the 19th:

UPDATE: Even a Texas hooker is collecting toys!

This is a job for Supernanny

I really am beginning to think that the only possible way the Obama administration will stop chasing independent votes by capitulating to Republicans and letting them screw everything up is to call… Supernanny! Because allowing states to simply shred medical benefits the way they do with Medicaid is not going to inspire people to go out and vote for the president again, and I can’t believe they don’t see that:

WASHINGTON — In a major surprise on the politically charged new health care law, the Obama administration said Friday that it would not define a single uniform set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories.

The move would allow significant variations in benefits from state to state, much like the current differences in state Medicaid programs and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“Differences”? I think they mean “deficiencies.”

By giving states the discretion to specify essential benefits, the Obama administration sought to deflect one of the most powerful arguments made by Republican critics of President Obama’s health care overhaul — that it was imposing a rigid, bureaucrat-controlled health system on Americans and threatening the quality of care. Opponents say that the federal government is forcing a one-size-fits-all standard for health insurance and usurping state authority to regulate the industry.

This criticism has inspired legal challenges to the new law — with the Supreme Court set to decide next year whether the government can require Americans to buy health insurance — and helps explain why public opinion of the law remains deeply divided.

The law is looming as a central issue in the 2012 presidential race, with Republican presidential candidates being evaluated on the strength of their opposition to it. The announcement by the administration follows its decision this year to jettison a program created in the law to provide long-term care insurance, a move that disappointed liberal backers of the program championed by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The action Friday prompted questions among supporters of the new health care law. Prof. Timothy S. Jost, an expert on health law at Washington and Lee University, said, “The new bulletin perpetuates uncertainty about what benefits an insurer will be required to cover under the Affordable Care Act.” From the consumer’s point of view, Professor Jost added, “I wish the Department of Health and Human Services had signaled that there would be more uniformity and less flexibility.”

Chris Jacobs, a health policy analyst for Senate Republicans, said the new policy “gives states the flexibility to impose more benefit mandates, not fewer,” and would lead to higher insurance premiums, contrary to what Mr. Obama promised in the 2008 campaign.

See? No matter what he does, the Republicans find a way to criticize it. Why try to get their approval?

I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus

Amy Winehouse:

From the aptly-named Hurts, a song for the not-so-thrilled among you:

Coney Island winter

Garland Jeffreys:

Cute baby

And a puppy! Awww!

How come you never go there

Feist:

Merry Christmas, Baby

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