I always thought Guy’s All Star Shoe Band never got enough credit for the success of A Prairie Home Companion.

The genius of Rich Dworsky cannot be overstated.

So it’s good news that Dworsky is remaining with the show now that Garrison Keillor has retired. He’ll be music director of an entirely new band, new host Chris Thile has announced, according to Current.

We don’t yet know what it will all sound like. We will on October 15.


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It’s true that business media speak a different language from earthlings, but we’re still confused — and a little impressed — with Mylan’s chief executive officer Heather Bresch’s response to her company’s shakedown of people who need to buy EpiPen’s to be used during allergic emergencies.

Bresch’s firm has raised the price of the pens, as detailed in this space yesterday, although the company tried to dampen the profiteering outrage by increasing “discounts” on the medication.

Give Bresch credit for facing the music during her appearance on CNBC this morning. And give her credit for putting a bunch of words together to make it sound like…. something.

“We’re running a business,” she said. It was a good start to an explanation.

“And we’re going to continue to meet the supply and demand of what’s out there. I can tell you, I don’t think anyone should stay status quo or business as usual. This is a dynamic, dynamic industry and our system needs to be dynamic to evolve and transform the health care system,” she said.

What?

She said she was ready to work with Congress and not to have a PR soundbyte, which, for the record, is pretty much what she delivered.

Bresch said as a mother “I can assure you the last thing we would ever want is no one to have an EpiPen.” She said the company took immediate action to lower the price for some people.

That assertion, of course, is wrong. The company took no action — immediate or otherwise — until social media started a campaign to call attention to the firm’s run-up in price for a product that costs about $1 to make.

It was, as the New York Times editorial today put it accurately, “a ripoff.”

High-level scrutiny from Ms. Klobuchar and others could conceivably shame Mylan into lowering prices. But if Congress were concerned about escalating drug prices, it would undertake a much broader look at the industry and possible legislative remedies. Mylan is hardly alone. Prescription drug prices jumped 38 percent in the last 10 years, compared to an 18 percent increase in general inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One reason for those increases is that Congress doesn’t let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices. Many medicines cost significantly less in other developed countries, like Canada and Britain, which do negotiate with drug makers. Pharmaceutical companies have also squelched competition by, in effect, paying one another to delay the introduction of generic drugs. The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that regulators could challenge such agreements on antitrust grounds, but did not declare those deals illegal. Congress should pass legislation that would make pay-for-delay agreements illegal.

The system is gamed thanks to a cozy relationship between big pharma and big Congress.

“Is Congress too close to the biotech industry in this country?” the CNBC host asked the CEO.

That’s a pretty easy question to answer. It’s either “yes” or “no.” But for a second, you could almost hear the internal jukebox search for the non-answer answer. And it found it.

“I think we need leadership in this country to make this tough change. This isn’t easy; if it was easy, we wouldn’t be sitting here. It’s a complicated system and to get in and understand it takes time, which, as you know, many people don’t have the time to take the time,” she said. “Our leaders, our Congress, need to get around the table and fix this.”

Bresch, saying the situation is complicated, tried to provide the math that explains how the price of a package of EpiPens zooms to $600.

“The list price is $600,” she said. “What Mylan takes from that, our net sale, is $274. So $137 per pen. And against that — manufacturing the product, distributing the product, enhancing the product — is investing. When we took over the product, eight years ago, there was very, very little awareness. We have doubled the lives of patients carrying an EpiPen. We have passed legislation in 48 states to allow undesignated EpiPens to be in schools, and what that means is there have been unfortunate, tragic events like a seven year old in Virginia who died on the schoolyard because the school had EpiPens, but not in her name. So we fought, that takes time and resources to get out there and make sure people are aware of the issues and make sure people understand that EpiPens need to be everywhere.”

She’s referring to the cost of lobbying states like Minnesota, which has a law requiring a written health plan for students who’ve been prescribed an EpiPen. That’s a law that originated 12 years ago and was updated in 2013.

To the extent that explains a huge mark-up, Bresch’s argument is compelling, if not downright persuasive.

“But you can understand the outrage,” said the interviewer.

“No one is more frustrated than me,” Bresch responded.

“You’re the one raising the price, how can you be frustrated?” he said.

“My frustration is the list price is $608,” she said. “There is a system. I laid out that there are four or five hands that the product touches, and companies that it goes through before it ever gets to that patient at the counter. Everyone should be frustrated. I am hoping that this is an inflection point for this country. Our health care is in a crisis. It’s no different than the mortgage financial crisis back in 2007. This bubble is going to burst.”

Only in health care, she said, can you walk up to a counter and be paying up to $2,000 today for what you paid $25 for yesterday.

“It was never intended at the counter that the patient should be paying list price,” she said.

She said parents need to get “engaged” in their health care.

Which means what, exactly? He didn’t ask.

It’s a typical complaint — consumers of health care don’t understand the cost of health care. But it’s also an odd assertion, coming as it does in a TV interview taking place only because consumers “engaged” on the issue of the cost of their health care.

Why not just roll back the price? “If we’d done that, I couldn’t insure that everyone who needs an EpiPen gets an EpiPen,” she said.

“We’re cutting the price in half so we’re effectively letting the patient take control of that.”

Again: What?

The CNBC host continued to try to square an out-of-control price of Bresch’s product with Bresch’s rapidly increasing salary, now up to $19 million.

“I understand better than anyone that facts are inconvenient to headlines,” she responded.

By the time the 18-minute was over, we all needed a shot of something.

We’re suckers for tales of the Greatest Generation, and, apparently, so are the 5.5 million other people who’ve been delighted this week by the video of Ernie Thompson, 98, a World War II veteran who served on some famous ships during the war.

A group of Navy petty officer candidates marched to his house in California the other day to show him some respect.


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His grandson provides the back story.

My grandfather served on the USS Tennessee prior to WWII and the USS Missouri during WWII, ultimately witnessing the end of WWII. He has become one of my best friends and is the reason that I became involved in saving the USS Iowa from scrap.

When he lost my grandmother, the one thing he wanted to do was visit his ship (USS Missouri) again. We visited his ship together in 2000 and I was able to experience what these museum ships meant to veterans.

I witnessed an 82-year-old man become 18 again and a flood of emotions that affected all that were present tremendously. When I returned home, I was so incredibly impacted by this experience that I felt other veterans should be able to experience this.

I was blessed to find out that the USS Iowa (sister to the MISSOURI) needed to be saved and I decided to partner with amazing people and make it my life’s work to preserve IOWA for other veterans. We accomplished this and today I am blessed to serve as the CEO of the Battleship IOWA Museum in Los Angeles – 15 minutes from my grandfather’s home. We honor all veterans daily by announcing them on board when they visit with their families (just heard one as I write this). The emotional experience this provides them is the same one I felt 16 years ago.

My grandfather joined the IOWA Museum Crew with other WWII veterans (such as Bob Despain from the USS Hoel) to come to the ship on Sundays and meet the public and tell their story. These public interactions have greatly influenced future generations, the public, and current Navy personnel on the importance of history, patriotism, and military/veteran appreciation.

The Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center has made it part of Chief Select for 2 years to meet these WWII veterans. When they found out that my grandfather was unable to visit the ship lately due to health reasons, they decided to take it to him. They worked with the IOWA Volunteer Coordinator to arrange the surprise visit and when the day arrived he was surprised!

The video shows the culmination of the planning and the amazing efforts of all involved. Neighbors came out of their houses to witness a once in a lifetime experience. My grandfather told me that it was one of the best days of his life! I am humbled by the efforts these young men and women to do this for my grandfather. Our IOWA crew tries to do this daily for all veterans and their families, it is our small gesture to let them know that we appreciate them.

Ernie was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered. He said he had to stand at attention for three and a half hours.