Winner: The economy keeps showing signs of improvement. Friday the Department of Labor said unemployment fell to 8.3 percent nationwide in January, down from 8.5 percent the month before. This was a better performance than experts had predicted, and it represented an increase in 243,000 jobs during the month. Critics often note, correctly, that the monthly jobless report doesn't include people in part-time jobs who would like to be full-time and people who have given up looking for work. But even there the outlook is rosy. If you combined those people into the report, the rate is now 15.1 percent, down from 15.2 percent in December, the Associated Press said.
Loser: If you're a naturalized U.S. citizen, the simple act of renewing a driver's license can take from several days to months. A Deseret News story this week focused on Irene Christenson, who became a citizen 22 years ago and has since served in the Army Reserves. She has been told her Utah license renewal application is on hold with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington because she has been a citizen too long. Local officials dispute that confusing explanation, but they acknowledge some applications take a long time to process and they really don't know why. That's no way to treat any American citizen, whether born in this country or not.
Loser: The Utah Legislature was considering a bill this week that would have made it illegal to possess the tools with which to create graffiti, such as cans of spray paint and markers. The bill has since died in the Senate, but not before a group calling itself Anonymous apparently crashed the Salt Lake City Police Department website in protest and then said it had stolen thousands of electronic documents. In a private chat room, someone claiming to be from the site said the actions were done in order to bring police abuses to light and to emphasize that such bills would make abuses easier to commit. Maybe so, but in this country there is an open legislative process for dealing with such proposals. Threats and intimidation are abhorrent, whether they come from government or from criminals in the general public.
Loser-Winner: Groundhog Day is a time for silliness in Punxsutawney, Pa., which is pretty much the point of the whole Punxsutawney Phil shtick each year. The losers in this case are the news services that take real weather data from previous years and match it against the groundhog's shadowy predictions. To no one's surprise, the little marmot isn't very reliable. So what? They might as well research the promises mall Santas give to kids and compare them to actual gifts received. The winner is the tradition itself, which has turned a tiny, hard-to-spell town into a household name and given people something fun to do during and cold, dreary time of year. If we really wanted to know the weather report, we would contact a meteorologist.