Loser: The number of people “Target-ed” by a pre-holiday data-breach at the large retailer is much higher than first reported. Instead of 40 million, Target officials this week said as many as 110 million customers may have had their credit cards compromised (which equates to about one-third of the nation). Those are almost NSA proportions. This means criminals have access to their phone number, email addresses and mailing addresses, in addition to their credit card numbers. Many customers report paying in cash now, as a result. That may not be a bad thing.
Winner: A survey by Global Workplace Analytics finds about 30 million people in the United States work from home at least one day a week. When bad weather hits, the ability to use Internet technology to turn home into a fully functional virtual office has great benefits for the nation’s economy, as well as the environment. Imagine what Northern Utah inversions would be like if every worker stayed home to avoid adding to tailpipe emissions. A story this week in the Deseret News quoted estimates saying the nation could save more than $700 billion yearly if only half the people who want to work from home would do so half of each week. Plus, think of the savings in laundry bills from not having to change out of pajamas.
Loser: In the depths of the Great Recession, who would have thought a jobs report that lowered the official unemployment rate to 6.7 percent would be considered such a downer? And yet the Labor Department report released Friday found that only 74,000 new jobs were added to the economy in December. That’s a significant reduction from the 200,000 pace set in the previous three months. The unemployment percentage dropped because a lot of out-of-work people stopped looking. This is not good news for the long-awaited sustained and robust recovery.
Winner: Utahns can breathe a little easier now that all the chemical weapons stored in Tooele County have been destroyed. This week, crews began actually demolishing the Army’s incinerator complex. That was an important visual reminder of how this once controversial part of the Cold War and U.S. history has now passed in Utah (some chemical stockpiles remain in other parts of the nation). Significantly, news reports say Tooele County does not seem to have suffered much from the jobs lost at the facility, with employment holding mostly steady. The removal of bombs and rockets loaded with blister and nerve agents can’t be bad for economic development.
Loser: Given the enormous cost and energy that has gone into reducing the effects of alcohol abuse, it seems confusing, at best, to see how Americans seem to be embracing the legalization of marijuana. A new CNN/ORC International poll finds 55 percent of Americans supporting legalization, with only 44 percent against. Much of this may be due to false assurances that marijuana is harmless. A quick trip to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (drugabuse.gov) would inform them otherwise. Marijuana causes a host of physical and mental problems. Users “generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, and less academic and career success” than their peers who don’t smoke. So why exactly is this something society needs to legalize?