Loser: This year's flu shot has proven to be only 9 percent effective on people 65 or older — a particularly vulnerable group for whom the flu can be a major health risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the news this week, although health officials seem to have no idea why it is so. Each year, the flu virus mutates, requiring a different vaccine than the year before. The shots are never 100 percent effective, but generally they provide a level of protection not too far below that. When all age groups are combined, this year's shot has been 56 percent effective. Despite this, the CDC still recommends the shot for anyone over 6 months old, simply because it is the best protection available. We hope next year researchers develop a shot that has a better record than a placebo.

Loser: If you're looking for a good economic barometer, you could do a lot worse than Wal-Mart. The retail giant caters to a lot of moderate-to-low-income Americans, and its corporate offices report slower than expected sales so far this year. Analysts say this is a result of several factors. Gasoline prices are rising, the payroll tax jumped with the new year, and Congress was so slow to broker a tax deal at the start of the year that income tax refunds are coming late. As a result, people aren't shopping much. Other businesses, such as Burger King, are reporting similar slowdowns, The Associated Press said. Just think how well they'll do after automatic federal budget cuts take hold late next week.

Winner: A 7-Eleven in Provo deserves credit for creating a program that may do more to enhance reading than anything the government could devise. Any youngster who wants may borrow a book from the store's two fully stocked bookcases. All they have to do is bring the book back, report on its contents to a store employee and collect a free healthy treat, such as an apple or banana, or have a free Slurpee. The store is partnering with EveryDay Learner books to provide the reading material, according to the Provo Daily Herald. We venture to guess many kids would rather visit a 7-Eleven than a school or a library, making the program a perfect, if sneaky, way to instill a love of reading.

Comment on this story

Winner: A bill introduced in the state Senate would put an end to the loophole that allows political appointees to seek outside consulting work while also working for the state. The sponsor of SB83, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill was prompted by the current controversy surrounding Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who did consulting work while serving as chief deputy to former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The U.S. Attorney's Office says both the Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating Swallow's actions. Prohibiting outside work, some of which may conflict with state duties, makes a lot of sense.