Winner: Politicians spent a lot of time predicting gloom and doom in advance of the partial government shutdown last month, but it turns out the economy hardly noticed. Figures released this week showed the U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs during the month, which was the most robust report in awhile. Hiring was particularly strong in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing and health care sectors. The only bad news is that the unemployment rate inched up to 7.3 percent, but that is being described as one of the most notably economic consequences of the shutdown. Idled federal employees were counted as unemployment for three weeks.
Loser: What good is retirement if you’re too addled to know what’s going on? A recent study in France found that people who retire early, at age 60 were more likely to suffer from dementia than those who worked until 65. The reason appears to have much to do with how engaged people are in the broader world, which can translate to mental health. This information could lead people to work longer and postpone retirement. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just that those daydreams about the joys of early retirement were so pleasant.
Winner: Utah’s eighth-graders showed significant improvement in reading performance in 2013, compared to eighth-graders in years past. The latest National Assessment of Education Progress figures show that much of the progress is happening among minority and low-income students, which is particularly good news. In the past, measurements have shown that those students perform poorly in comparison to others in Utah. Math scores remained statistically the same as in 2011, but were still above the national average. We hope the improvement develops into a long-term trend.
Winner: Four well-known climate scientists are endorsing nuclear power as a way to meet the world’s ever-increasing energy needs without adding to harmful carbon emissions. In a widely distributed letter this week, they asked that energy decisions be made on facts, not emotions, and noted that the risks involved with nuclear energy are far less than the risks involved with the continued use of fossil fuels. The letter is an important nudge in the right direction. As valuable and promising as other clean energy sources (i.e. wind, solar, geothermal or others) may be, they cannot, as of yet, generate the amount of energy needed to keep up with demand.
Loser: The website firstpost.com is reporting that famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden obtained the logins and passwords of perhaps as many as 25 fellow workers at the agency when he worked at the Hawaii regional operations center, which allowed him far broader access than his job would have provided. Snowden allegedly told the workers he needed the information as part of his job as a systems administrator. The website quotes unnamed sources. The information raises further concerns about security at the NSA, which in some cases is only as tight as the human frailties of those to whom it is entrusted.
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