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The winners and the losers: Iran, unemployment numbers, earthquakes

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, offers flowers on a damaged area by March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Natori, northeastern Japan, on Saturday May 21, 2011.

Associated Press

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Loser: It was hardly comforting to learn Friday that Iran plans to attend North Korea's test launch of a long-range missile when it is ready later this month. Iran has had observers on hand for all of North Korea's missile and rocket tests since the late '90s, but Iran's involvement makes it harder to take seriously its own claims of using nuclear technology only for producing electricity. Meanwhile, international inspectors continue to be stymied in efforts to gain access to Iran's nuclear facilities and to determine whether Iran has a military component to its program. North Korea's missile test is bad enough. Japan has threatened to shoot it down if it violates Japanese air space. But Iran's involvement is a stark reminder to the world of which nations pose the biggest risk right now to freedom.

Winner? We hesitate when it comes to unemployment numbers. They seldom truly reveal what is happening in the economy. Surely, it was good news to learn this week that the nation's unemployment rate sank to 7.7 percent. But the official rate doesn't reflect the many Americans who are unemployed and have given up looking for work. In November, nonfarm employment expanded by 146,000, but it will take more than 200,000 per month to begin to put a dent in the 22.7 million Americans who are out of work, economists say. It's not quite time to celebrate yet.

Winner: Japan had to endure another large earthquake this week, but the good news is that its infrastructure held, damage was slight and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant damaged in a quake nearly two years ago showed no signs of damage. Japan is unusually vulnerable to huge seismic shifts, but its people have done much to prepare themselves, particularly after the quake and tsunami 21 months ago. An advanced warning system gave people up to six minutes to take precautions before the actual arrival of the earthquake. Many headed to higher ground in advance of a tsunami that ended up being mild. Japan's level of preparedness ought to be a model for how Utah prepares for its inevitable earthquake.

Winner: Friday marked the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Washinton Post marked the day by publishing a first-hand account written by Elizabeth McIntosh of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. In 1941, her editor thought the account was too upsetting and never published it. Today it gives a graphic eye-witness account of the civilian damage and deaths sustained in Hawaii, and of the way locals, the Red Cross and the military were able to quickly organize to handle the casualties and the carnage. As a bonus, the Post also interviewed McIntosh, who at 97 lives in Virginia and still writes on her manual typewriter. The package was a timely reminder of the gratitude due to all those first casualties of a war that preserved freedom and set the stage for much of the world as we now know it.

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