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The death of Joan Rivers: 2 thoughts

Joan Rivers at the 25th Anniversary party of Michael Musto writing for The Village Voice, March 13, 2010 (Credit: David Shankbone via Flickr) Joan Rivers was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants.  She ran away from home at age 23 to become an actress, and changed her name at the advice of her agent.  By 1958, she had decided to do comedy.  She auditioned for The Tonight Show seven times before she first appeared on the show in 1965.  She eventually became Johnny Carson's permanent substitute, appearing more than 80 times by 1983.

In the years after, she did her own comedy show, appeared on numerous talk shows and television programs, wrote 12 best-selling books, and became a fashion designer.  On August 28, she underwent a vocal chord procedure at a doctor's office in Manhattan, but experienced serious complications and was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital.  Yesterday she passed away at the age of 81.

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CVS ends tobacco sales

A cashier counts money in front of shelves full of cigarettes at a CVS store in the Manhattan borough of New York February 5, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri) According to The Wall Street Journal, tobacco is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in America.  A U.S. Surgeon General report last month linked smoking to 480,000 deaths annually, and attributed at least $289 billion in annual costs to smoking.  What can one person do about this problem?

Larry Merlo is a pharmacist who became CEO of CVS in 2011.  Yesterday he announced: "The sale of cigarettes and tobacco at CVS pharmacy stores ends today.  By eliminating the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in our stores, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans."  His announcement is expected to pressure Walgreen, Rite Aid and Wal-Mart to adopt similar measures.

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The summer in one sentence

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State, walk toward the Syrian border near the town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah, on the outskirts of Sinjar Mountain, in northwest Iraq, August 11, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Rodi Said) My wife and I just returned from vacationing in Alaska.  As a native of Houston and resident of Dallas, I was unprepared for the splendor of the Alaskan wilderness.  The glaciers and waterfalls were breathtaking, the mountains majestic, the wildlife astonishing.  We wore jackets for the first time since March.

I returned to the office yesterday and opened my email.  The first article I read was titled, "The summer in 1 sentence."  The blog post links to Bret Stephens's recent article in The Wall Street Journal and this sentence encapsulating recent events: "Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 'collaborators' in broad daylight, Bashar Assad's forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters."

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Why did God make the seasons?

A montage of all fours seasons of an old barn across a field, taken from the same location in Buckingham, Pennsylvania.  Clockwise from upper left: spring, May 4, 2011; summer, July 10, 2011; autumn, September 27, 2010; winter, November 27, 2012 (Credit: mtsofan via Flickr) Labor Day is over and fall is upon us.  Technically, fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22 at 10:29 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time.  (The Southern Hemisphere enters spring when we enter fall.)  But where I live in Dallas, Texas, it feels like fall is already here.  School is back in session; football has begun.  The season has changed.

Seasons were God's invention.  On the fourth day of creation he said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.  And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14).  Why did our Creator make seasons?

One reason has to do with our climate.  Our seasons are the result of our planet's tilt—when your part of the world tilts toward the sun, you get spring and summer; when it tilts away, you get fall and winter.  God didn't have to do things this way—he could have created our planet with no tilt and thus no seasons.  But then regions further from the equator would receive much less sunlight and thus be much less inhabitable.  God loves diversity, and wanted us to experience our world from the far north to the far south.

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Why do Americans work more than Europeans?

A worker on the IG Group's trading floor looks away from his screens in the City of London, October 4, 2011 (Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris) Welcome to Labor Day (a paradoxically-named event since it is supposed to be a holiday from labor).  The idea of a day to celebrate those who labor was first proposed in 1882, and became a federal holiday in 1894.

America's laborers deserve a holiday.  According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours annually than British workers, and 499 more hours annually than French workers.  American workers receive 13 paid vacation days on average per year; in Finland and France, they get 30 days, an entire month.

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