The Lookout
  • 43 million Americans are on food stamps

    food stampsIs America becoming a food stamp nation?

    More than 14 percent of Americans relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, in November -- almost a year and a half since the Great Recession officially ended.

    The total number of food stamp recipients, over 43.5 million people, was up by 14.2 percent from the previous year, and up by 0.9 percent since October. The rise, measured by a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, is a product of the high jobless rate, as well as the slow growth in wages.

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  • bradley manningToday, WikiLeaks was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for "disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes." Julian Assange's muckraking website can likely thank Army Private Bradley Manning for the nomination, for he's the person who allegedly turned over the treasure-trove of classified military documents to them.

    Then again, if Julian Assange ends up a Nobelist, maybe he should be sure to thank Manning's commanding officers in his acceptance speech -- since they deployed him to process intelligence documents in Iraq over the objections of Army psychologists, who said the young private was too mentally unstable for active duty.

    The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe and Ellen Nakashima report today that an Army investigation into the young soldier's alleged transfer of reams classified information into the orbit of WikiLeaks found that an Army mental health specialist at Fort Drum, N.Y. recommended tagging Manning as mentally unfit to serve in a war zone. What's more, Jaffe and Nakashima report that "Manning's immediate supervisors did not follow procedures for overseeing the secure area where the classified information was kept, greatly increasing the risk of a security breach." All told, the warning signs seemed to indicate that Manning was a WikiLeak waiting to happen.

    "There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of Pfc. Manning in Iraq," an unnamed military official told the paper. "Something happened in his personal life after he joined the Army."

    Read More »from Report: Army ignored warning signs pointing to Bradley Manning’s instability
  • job seekersSince at least last year, economists have been arguing about the root cause of our ongoing jobs crisis. Is the problem a lack of demand in the labor economy? Or does the chronic high level of unemployment stem from more structural factors -- such as a mismatch between the skills that workers in a given location possess, and the skills that today's jobs require?

    The answer is crucial, because fixing a demand problem would require more government stimulus, while addressing a structural mismatch would mean a longer-term process of education and retraining -- an effort President Obama alluded to in his recent State of the Union address.

    Today, the Washington Post weighs in on behalf of the "structural" explanation. Post reporter Michael A. Fletcher notes that Fresno, Calif. has a jobless rate of 16.9 percent -- way above the still-high national rate of 9.4 percent -- but that many employers in the region have job openings, and can't find the right workers to fill them.

    Read More »from WaPo focus on structural factors in jobs crisis may be off

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