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.

    Read More »from 43 million Americans are on food stamps
  • 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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  • NYSE stocks posting largest percentage increases

    A look at the 10 biggest percentage gainers on New York Stock Exchange at 1 p.m.: Teekay Shipping Corp. rose 13.1 percent to $66.01. Par Technology Corp. rose 5.9 percent to $5.03. OCI Partners LP rose ...

  • Midday Glance: Gold companies

    Shares of some top gold companies are down at 1 p.m.: Barrick Gold Corp. fell $.36 or 2.4 percent, to $14.64. Gold Fields Ltd ADS fell $.05 or 1.3 percent, to $3.93. GoldCorp. fell $.42 or 1.8 percent, ...

  • The Perks of Retirement in Thailand and the Philippines

    Southeast Asia is a remarkably beautiful and diverse region that is becoming much more welcoming to Western retirees. Southeast Asia's big appeal for foreign retirees is the cost of living. Several countries here are among the world's cheapest places to retire. Your money goes much further in this part of the world than in the United States or any other Western country, but that does not mean that the standard of living is necessarily lower.

  • Wal-Mart: Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in crash
    Wal-Mart: Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in crash

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and other people in a limousine struck from behind by a Wal-Mart truck on a highway in June are at least partly to blame for their injuries because they weren't wearing seatbelts, the company said in a court filing Monday.

  • 4 House Remodeling Projects Worth Every Cent
    4 House Remodeling Projects Worth Every Cent

    Remodeling your home before you put it on the market is becoming a smart sales tactic; For 2014, the cost-value ratio, which expresses the resale value as a percentage of construction cost, stands at 66.1 percent, up 5.5 points over the last year and the largest increase since 2005, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2014 cost vs. value report. “Significantly, for the first time in four years, improved resale value of residential housing had more of an influence on the cost-value ratio than construction costs,” according to the magazine. “A modest 2.2 percent increase in average national construction costs was more than offset by an 11.5 percent improvement in average national resale value.”

  • Wall St. ends down for day, month; indexes gain in quarter

    By Caroline Valetkevitch NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks slipped on Tuesday, dragged down by energy and materials shares as economic data disappointed. Major indexes also posted losses for the month, but ended the quarter with gains. The S&P energy index was down 1.2 percent on Tuesday following a more than 3 percent drop in U.S. oil prices. The S&P materials index also fell 1.2 percent. Shares of Chevron , down 1 percent at $119.32, were the biggest drag on the S&P 500. The Thomson Reuters Jefferies CRB commodity index ended down 1.6 percent, its largest daily decline since June 2013. ...

  • Least tax-friendly states for retirees
    Least tax-friendly states for retirees

    These states impose the highest taxes on retirees, according to Kiplinger's 2014 analysis of state taxes.

  • Restaurant technology isn't replacing humans yet
    Restaurant technology isn't replacing humans yet

    High tech arrives everywhere eventually, and restaurants are incorporating it as quickly as they can.

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