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Do We Really Need Guns?

October 7, 2017

Filed under: Health,Journalism,observations,Uncategorized,Wellness — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:22 am

Several neighbors on my street own guns. The subject comes up once in a while, when there is some kind of crime in our small town

It doesn’t happen very often, but I’m sure this weekend when we’re all out gardening or chatting over the back fence the topic will be mentioned since it’s the first full weekend since the carnage in Las Vegas.

My niece, who is still in her 20’s, owns 2 rifles which are locked in a gun safe until she takes them out for target shooting at a range near her home. I was surprised, and slightly dismayed, when I learned of her interest, but her parents approve so I keep my mouth shut -mostly.

At one time, my wife even suggested I get a gun. After police combed our neighborhood searching for an armed robber who decided the best spot to hide was in a neighbor’s back yard.

I declined, and will continue to decline as long as I live. I can see no point to them. I have no interest in shooting at a target or a deer. Although, they roam our neighborhood with impunity, eating anything that grows. As an avid gardener I consider them rats with long legs. But that’s a different issue.

I cannot foresee an instance where I would use a gun against someone who was threatening me or my family. I can only see that it would make the situation worse.

My dad was a WWII veteran and shot a gun many times, I’m sure, but we never had them around the house and in all my years I don’t remember the topic ever coming up for discussion. After all, he suffered from what we now call PTSD, and I doubt he had any interest in firing a rifle again.

And yes, I firmly believe the second amendment has been poorly interpreted and our Founding Fathers never meant that we should all have automatic weapons in our homes.

Over 60% of the gun deaths in this country are suicides and I can see no reason to make suicide easier.

I’m not saying suicide would be impossible without guns. Heavens knows when my wife’s best friend decided five years ago, to end her life with pills, there was nothing we could do, no matter how much we pleaded with her.

But I’d like to think that my neighbor two doors away, who I had a standing Wednesday lunch date with for the last two years, would still be alive, if he had not been able to take out a gun and blow his brains out early one Monday morning  three weeks ago.

Perhaps, without the NRA, my neighbor and I could have lunch again this week.

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A Remembrance – Mark Merenda

March 14, 2017

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

In many ways “Catch-22” was the cornerstone of my relationship with Mark Merenda. When we met in 1972 he embarked on a literary exercise to make me memorize sections of the novel’s dialogue, so we could recite them back and forth to each other. He was much better at it than I was, but eventually I became Orr to his Yossarian.

He was much more literate than I, and had the kind of memory  I could never hope to achieve. He was also brilliant, well read, opinionated, stubborn and a cad of the highest order – all of which made him my idol.

Mark Merenda circa 1972

Mark Merenda circa 1972

We met at our first jobs, at a small newspaper in Massachusetts where he was the sports editor and I covered one mid-size town. We became instant friends since we were among the only staffers who were not members of the  clan that ran the business. Like Heller’s Yossarian, it was us against them, and we were determined to keep our sanity by taking advantage of everything we could.

I lacked his self confidence, and  was never sure what he saw in me, but I accepted my role because he was everything I wanted to be. It worked out well for both of us, I got an education and he got a wing man. I could never really describe our relationship until many years later when the movie “Sideways” came out. We were a buddy movie before I knew what buddy movies were.

We had no business covering Boston’s professional sports teams, but as long as the Red Sox , Patriots, Bruins or Celtics would give us press passes and we did our jobs at the paper, we played the part of big-time sports media types. Mark was the writer, and I was the photographer, and we were both pretty good at our roles. He got to meet his idols and I got to get trampled by Dave Cowens, John Hannah, and almost beaned by Willie Randolf.  That’s the chance you take when you sit under the Celtics basket, along the sidelines of the New England Patriots, or in foul territory at Fenway Park.

Even Mark knew that his stories had more readers if there was great art alongside.

He was warm, dry and safe while I was often soaked and had a bad back from carrying camera equipment all over whatever field we had chosen to cover.

But I would not have traded the experience for anything, because it was really the post-event education that was the best part. After the game, we’d head over to  Cambridge where Mark and I set up shop in the bar, at either the Hyatt Regency or later the Charles Hotel. Both were target-rich environments for a young stud and his wing man. I was not very good at meeting women, but Mark was a pro and more often than not an hour or so after we arrived, he would glance in my direction and throw me the car keys so I could drive myself home in his MG.

I never asked how he got back home but I just marveled at  the show. The fact that he lived with a very nice young woman who had to put up with his behavior just made him seem more dangerous. I’m sure she knew, but was willing to put up with his behavior for the same reason I did. Every discussion with Mark was an education and just being in his presence made you feel better.

Mark could pretty much talk me into anything.. He would take me shopping in Boston, to Louis, the most expensive store in the city, and convince me that I ‘needed’ a $700 cashmere overcoat. It was a great coat, and I loved it, but I was almost afraid to wear it.

His brother, Guy, was trying to start a leather business so I ‘needed’ to buy a new briefcase. It’s still here in my office next to my desk.

No matter, it was just part of my role. The flip side was, what I have since learned, is what drew Mark to me: I could tell him what an ass-hole he was being. He knew, that I knew, that sometimes he was simply full of crap, and I would be brutally honest without messing up our friendship.

We grew to respect each other, covering news, and sports together learning skills that they don’t teach in journalism school.

We even started a magazine. It was mostly about sports and we were sure it was going to be our ticket to stardom, or at least untold riches. At least until our bosses at the newspaper decided it was a little too much like competition. Forty years later I still have a few copies and I know Mark did too, even though we only produced two editions.

The beginning of the end was like a scene from “Good Will Hunting,” when Robin Williams’s character misses what was, until 2004, the most famous event in Boston baseball history, because he “had to see about a girl.”

When my future wife,  had the audacity to claim Zelda Fitzgerald really deserved major credit for F. Scott’s work he refused to even debate the topic accusing her of “getting her facts from People Magazine.” To this day, she relishes the fact that history and research have proven her correct.

We got married three years later, after I had moved to Maine to manage a newsroom. I always thought Mark never forgave her for taking up the time he wanted. He never came to the wedding and I never expected that he would. I have no idea what he thought when he found out we divorced 5 years later.

I lost touch with him and his career and it wasn’t until 30 years later when I decided to become personal coach that we reconnected. Somehow I found out he was now in marketing, so I called to ask for help. He refused to accept any payment for developing my web pages and freely offered marketing advice.

We had both matured, and the youthful arrogance was tempered by life, and now he had hundreds of friends, clients and employee who depended on his wisdom  I never made it to Florida, as I had promised,  and we missed connecting on his trip to San Francisco where I now live.

We chatted off and on, and he even allowed me to do some freelance writing, when I restarted my writing career. I would send him sporadic texts when I visited my parents near Boston. Always making sure I stopped by our old haunts, so I could bore my new wife with stories from the good old days and text Mark a photo or two.

He would text back quotes from ‘Catch-22.’

 

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‘Rules’ in Need of Adjustment

November 18, 2015

I just finished reading Laszlo Bock’s ‘Work Rules’ and while I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the book I definitely think it needs an attitude adjustment.51Df4YVLvbL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Bock is Google’s head of People Operations, which is an advanced version of what most people would know as human resources. Like many hi-tech firms, Google feels HR is an outdated term and doesn’t really explain what the department does. In truth, at least at Google, the department does a lot more than traditional HR departments.

But that’s really part of the problem. Bock presents a myriad of suggestions  for managing, promoting, recruiting and measuring employees or potential employees. Many of the procedures were developed at the company using statistical models developed by Google and all are presented as a common sense logical alternative to the way  other firms operate. A common refrain is simply “why would you do it any other way?”

This rationale comes despite that fact that the new procedures represent significant changes from the way Google used to do things, which were also supposedly based on statistical models and were  logical conclusions to the way things should be done.

Old methodology which has now been jettisoned include minimal middle management and the well known brain teasers which stumped thousands of job seekers.

Bock admits what everyone else in HR had been telling them for years: Everyone needs management and brain teasers only test how well someone can solve a specific problem, not overall creativity or performance.

The reality is, that despite their reliance on statistics, Google’s employee turnover  is no better than many other firms and they felt obliged to sign on to an illegal agreement with other tech firms not to poach employees. That case has been settled but the issue has not disappeared.

While there are a plethora of great ideas in the book, that many firms would do well to consider, my problem  is really an attitude issue. Much like a lot of other actions which aggravated many people, (such as private buses using public bus stops) Google seems to assume that what they do should not face the same scrutiny as others.

Other firms, they seem to feel, should be grateful that Google has shared their ideas so openly and should adopt them. That may be true, since there is a lot of bad management at most companies, but no-one likes to be told what is right for them.

In truth the best use for the book, might be for potential employees who want to figure out what principles will govern their potential employment.

And for that reason, I will suggest it for all my career clients, although I will warn them about the attitude adjustment that may be in order.

 

 

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Can We All Agree – 6/20/15 Edition

June 20, 2015

Can we all agree that no President should have to address the issue of mass shootings 14 times in 7 years?

Can we all agree that allowing guns in churches, as the NRA suggests, is not the answer?

Can we all agree that as long as people insist on  honoring the Civil War with Confederate flags racism will live in the United States?

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Can we all agree it’s not a free speech issue?

Can we all agree that the Pope has every right to speak out on climate change, and should continue to push the issue?

Can we all agree that politicians who argue with the Pope are just upset because it’s, well, inconvenient?

Can we all agree the deaths of 6 young people in Berkeley, should never have happened?

Can we all agree that once again ‘the media’ has shot itself in the foot with it’s coverage of the Berkeley tragedy?

Can we all agree that Brian Williams belongs in TV’s minor league (MSNBC) for the rest of his career? Rachel Maddow is welcome to him.

Can we all agree that there is no reason not to regulate the fuel economy of trucks?

Can we all agree that, while it will be nice to see a woman on a $10 bill, the $20 bill dispensed by most automatic teller machines would have been more fitting tribute?

Can we all agree that the  prison escape in upstate New York, gets more and more bizarre each week?

Can we all agree that the California Labor Commission was right to rule that Uber drivers are employees?

Building Inspectors in Berkeley

Building Inspectors in Berkeley

Can we all agree that, while Disney deserves credit for rehiring 35 tech workers, the H1-B visa scandal is a dirty little secret that no-one in Silicon Valley wants to admit?

Can we all agree that the playing conditions at the Women’s World Cup are another sign of the corruption at FIFA?

Can we all agree that the Golden State Warriors’s NBA championship just might restore some dignity to the sport?

Can we all agree, that, with apologies to Steph Curry, we should all just pause a bit before calling them the ‘greatest team’ ever?

Can we all agree that the NHL champion  Chicago Blackhawks might fit the title of dynasty?

Can we all agree that while the St. Louis Cardinals apparently broke a law in hacking another team’s computer, no one seems to be as outraged as they were at the Patriots for ‘deflategate.?’ – which does not involve the FBI.

Can we all agree it’s nice to have ‘Jeb!’ officially in the race but it’s more entertaining to have Donald Trump?

Can we all agree that, without some last minute breakthrough, The EU will be minus one country within the year?

Can we all agree that stationing tanks and heavy artillery in Eastern Europe is a dangerous reminder of an earlier era we would all rather forget?

Can we all agree that it’s OK to be white and identify as Black, but It’s not OK to claim you are African-American when you are not?

lagotto Romagnolo

lagotto Romagnolo

and finally,

Can we all agree that the BIG story of the week is the AKC’s decision to admit three new breeds into their private club coronation ceremony in New York?

 

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Graduating Into Networking

May 23, 2015

It’s graduation season.

High school seniors are looking forward to a summer off, before they start worrying whether they chose the ‘right’ college.

College graduates are considering taking on more debt to get an advanced degree, or worrying if they will ever find a job.

And perhaps not surprisingly, older workers are starting to wonder if they should return to the classroom. In an era where many thought leaders are openly questioning the value of a college education, univrsities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of ‘mature’ students returning to campus.Unknown

Just 15 years ago most of these older students were baby-boomers who were suddenly empty nesters, looking for a new challenge. Degrees such as Executive MBA’s were the province of small schools trying to generate some extra money from unused classroom space at night or on the weekend.

But with the recession, and millions of Americans out of work, almost every major university suddenly discovered that money from established workers was just as good as fees from undergraduates. Schools such as the University of California’s Haas School of Business, which had dismissed executive MBA programs in 2000, now have huge, and costly, courses in conjunction with other major universities.

So, as your son or daughter threatens to do a “Steve Jobs”  – rejecting college to work in the garage – is returning to school worth it?

I might be biased, since I received my MBA about 30 years after my bachelor’s degree, but my answer is a decided yes, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is the knowledge you gain, which is particularly valuable in an economy where you can never have enough skills. Change in the American workforce used to take place over generations. These days, it can occur in much less than a decade.

Just look at the number of jobs that went begging over the last 8 years while unemployment hovered around 10%.

Schools are making it easier to get accepted by removing testing and, in many cases, undergraduate degree requirements. Your work experience now has a completely unexpected real-life benefit.

Secondly, it’s all about networking. I once had a very heated and lengthy discussion about post graduate networking with a dining companion who insisted that “the only value’ to an advanced degree was the people you meet. His argument suggested that the only programs worth attending were from elite schools where you could rub elbows with classmates who were already successful.

The discussion grew so heated, my wife pointed out later, that diners were asking to be reseated away from our table. She admitted that I was not the main culprit, my debate-mate was. His debating style included language that probably should not be used outside a locker room – if at all.

I know I wasn’t convinced that my MBA was worthless because it was not from an Ivy League school, and I doubt he agreed that an education could be just as valuable, but we both should have apologized to the other diners.

You probably didn’t realize you were networking as an undergraduate, but as any college career office will tell you, your classmates can be a huge advantage when you start looking for a job.

In fact, some schools welcome freshman as alumni at their annual convocation near the start of the school year. They don’t exactly start fund-raising to 18-year-olds –  that’s a subtle side benefit that comes later.

School networks can be incredibly valuable on both the graduate and undergraduate level. Particularly with sites such as LinkedIn where you can easily find fellow alumni at companies where you want to work.

Likewise when hiring agents recognize their own college on your profile, it might be the extra leg up you need to at least get an interview.

So whether you are in college now, or contemplating a mid-career  advanced degree, remember the advantages of networking and use it as part of your job search. By the way my undergraduate degree is from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and my MBA is from Dominican University in San Rafael, CA.

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Can We All Agree – 4/5/15 Edition

April 5, 2015

This week’s commentary on the news:

Can we all agree that no matter what kind of agreement the EU and US reach with Iran, Mr. Netanyahu and his GOP will oppose it?

Can we all agree that it’s better to be talking with Iran than fighting with them? Although it’s tough to ignore their state sponsored terrorism.

Can we all agree that the continuing revelations about the copilot of the Germanwings plane, make the whole episode, much more tragic?05kentucky2-master675

Can we ll agree that Lufthansa Airlines is in a lot of trouble if they knew their pilot was seriously depressed, and still allowed to fly?

Can we ll agree that, it’s not the ‘liberal press’ or ‘militant gays’ that are behind the brouhaha over the Indiana and Arkansas religious freedom bills?

Can we all agree that the European Union’s skepticism about the business practices of Google, Apple and Facebook is much healthier than the unquestioning ‘regulation’ of US agencies?

Can we all agree that for residents of the northern third of the country, ‘Play Ball’ may be the most welcomed phrase they’ve heard in a long time?

Can we all agree that while McDonald’s decision to give raises to minimum  wage employees at company stores, is good news, $12/hour is still not a living wage?

Can we all agree that while California’s drought is very serious, exempting farmers, who use 70% of the state’s water, undermines Governor Brown’s credibility? BTW: It’s supposed to be raining for the next three days here in Northern CA.

images Can we all agree that outside of  Kentucky, most of us were pulling for Wisconsin in the NCAA semi-final on Saturday?

Can we all agree that varsity letters should be awarded for academic accomplishment, as well as extra-curricular activities such as  speech, drama, music, art, and dance?

Can we all agree that the charges against  NJ Senator Robert Menendez are an indictment of the Citizen’s United, Supreme Court decision?

Can we all agree that Trevor Noah is off to a bad start as host of The Daily Show, even though he hasn’t even hosted a program yet?

Can we all agree that while cheating is wrong, and should not be condoned, we are troubled by  the potential jail terms that the Atlanta educators are now facing?

And finally,

Can we all agree that the thought of Al Franken and John Stewart in the US Senate is very funny?

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Can We All Agree? 3/21/15 Edition

March 21, 2015

Can we all agree that the ‘arsenic in wine’ news could win the award for bogus story of the month. Now SF lawyers are trying to make a killing off it?

Can we all agree that the last thing we want with our coffee is a conversation about race relations?Unknown

Can we all agree that a Church who tries to drown homeless people has lost its way?

Can we all agree that March Madness has lost a bit of luster? It’s big business and needs an overhaul.

Can we all agree that holding the Attorney General nomination hostage to abortion is a strategy that is doomed to failure? Just another nail in the GOP coffin.

Can we all agree that within the next five years Pete Rose will be welcomed into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Can we all agree that we are shocked, that John Boehner is shocked that Aaron Schock resigned amid a spending scandal that has been going on for two years?

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Devastation in Vanuatu

Can we all agree that until last week, none of us could have found Vanuatu on a world map?

Can we all agree that the Governor and other state agencies need to do more to convince the average California resident that the drought is serious?

Can we all agree that the GOP budget produced in the House, just shows how little they understand about governance. Even their own party in the Senate thinks it’s laughable.

Can we all agree that the Israeli election means there will be no peace in our lifetime?

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Israeli’s soon to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Can we all agree that the explosion in new options for viewing television content is a little reminiscent of what happened when the government forced AT&T to break up? Or am I just showing my age?

Can we all agree that San Francisco’s texting controversy is shocking for the content and source of the text?

Can we all agree that Chris Borland’s decision to retire from football at 24 could signal a major change for the sport?

Can we all agree that Microsoft’s decision to put an end to Internet Explorer is a realization that they need to give up on the past and begin to innovate to stay relevant?

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Who Pays the Price?

By now Americans are aware that the products we use can come with unseen consequences. That appears to be the case for the latest smartphone you bought.

Producer Heather White introduces her film "Who Pays the Price?"

Producer Heather White introduces her film “Who Pays the Price?”

A soon to be released documentary movie, “Who Pays the Price?” tells the story of Chinese workers whose lives have been ruined by the jobs they took at factories which flaunt international standards.

Produced by Heather White, Lynn Zhang and Dal Lamagna, the film documents the plight of workers who were forced to use benzene and n-hexane to clean and mark components to smartphones and a myriad of electronic devices we use every day.

The chemicals, are well-known carcinogens and countries all over the world have agreed they should not be used without protection. But in China where they have not signed the international treaty on worker safety, the chemicals continue to be used with impunity.

The film details the life-threatening illnesses that are attributed to the chemicals and the system that has left them with no alternative to a lifetime awaiting an early death. It is a fate that many have chosen to hasten rather than be a burden on their elderly parents.

It is an indictment of both the labor practices in China, and the blind eye that consumers turn as long as they can get the toys they want.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

“Who Pays the Price” is scheduled to be released this fall and will be the topic of a number of magazine articles later this year, so you will hear more about it I’m sure.

Heather White, a former San Francisco resident, was in the Bay Area last week, hosting a screening of a shortened version, trying to raise funds to complete the project and a planned book.

Ms White, has long been a leader in fighting for the improvement of working conditions. She founded Verite, a well-known verification company which exposed and then worked to improve the plight of workers in textile firms making products for high-end brands around the world. She has now turned her attention to the electronics industry where labor laws and unverified supply chains have made enforcement of even rudimentary standards, almost impssible.

Her goal is not to tell people to discard their smartphones or tablets, but to make them aware of the working conditions that will continue unless some public pressure is brought to bear.

Companies such as Apple and Samsung are certainly aware of what’s going on, but a complex series of factors has made them hesitant to face up to the problems. It’s easier just to deny responsibility and hope to discredit any reports that interfere with their profits.

I urge you to take a look at the trailer on the website and make a contribution or contact Ms White for more information on how we can use our technology without killing the workers that manufacture it.

 

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Can We All Agree? 3/14/15 edition

March 14, 2015

Can we all agree with Hillary that she made a big mistake in using a personal email address for government business?

Can we all agree that Rep. Trey Gowdy has some explaining to do since the head of the House Benghazi committee allegedly knew about the problem but did nothing until the New York Times pointed it out.

Can we agree, by the way, that Rep Gowdy, may have the worst haircut in Washington?

Rep. Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy

Can we all agree that the various GOP Senators, Governors and former office holders have been remarkably silent on the email issue. Could it be they did the same thing?

Can we all agree that paying up to $17,000 for the Apple Watch is a bit risky in an industry that updates everything every 6 months?

Can we all agree that a 75 cent/gallon increase in California gas prices over the last month, sounds a bit fishy even with the refinery issues?

Can we all agree that something is seriously wrong with the culture at the Secret Service after two senior agents, apparently drunk, crashed a car into barriers at a White House entrance?

Can we all agree that the ‘Where’s Putin?’ game is more fun than ‘Where’s Waldo?’

Can we all agree that we are encouraged about reports that ISIS might be having some internal issues and seems to be losing steam on the battlefield?

Can we all agree that an increase in the potential for a major earthquake in California probably won’t make many folks leave town, or buy insurance?

Can we all agree that, despite this week’s violence in Ferguson, MO, the resignations of the City Manager, Judge and Police Chief, could pave the way for progress?

Can we all agree that the 7 Senators who did not sign the GOP letter to Iran’s leaders look like they made the right decision? And at least 46 who signed on, may be having second thoughts.

Can we all agree that Senator Tom Cotton who spearheaded the letter campaign, deserves all the criticism he gets? I’m with Joe Biden on this one.

 Can we all agree that, just like Hillary Clinton handed the GOP a great campaign issue, the Republicans have handed the President a huge club and asked to be beaten with it? And he’s happy to swing away. imrs.php

 Can we all agree that the administration caved in to an NRA letter writing campaign when they withdrew their request to end the sale of armor-piercing bullets? I guess you need them to hunt deer.

Can we all agree that if we can figure out a way to ship oil from Canada to New Orleans there has to be some way to ship the excess snow and water in New England out to the West Coast?

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Can We All Agree? 3/8/15

March 8, 2015

A shortened version this week. For more, follow me on twitter @eariess or now on Instagram at eariess:

Can we all agree that if Hillary didn’t keep handing the GOP issues, they’d have nothing to talk about?

Can we all agree that, despite GOP criticism, the President’s appearance in Selma was important? It was nice of the Republicans to send one ‘volunteer’ representative.

Preseident Obama marching in Selma

Preseident Obama marching in Selma

Can we all agree that Bibi must think the bulk of Americans are idiots when he tries to convince us that his speech was not ‘political.’

Can we all agree that based on this week’s episode, the GOP controlled Congress will get nothing done for the next two years?

Can we all agree that the situation in Russia gets more and more bizarre every day? Now a murder suspect has reportedly committed suicide.

Can we all agree that trying to read the Supreme Court based on the questions they ask is a bit like Kremlin-watching during the Cold War?

Can we all agree that when the Cleveland Police blame 12-year-old for his murder, at their hands, they have a credibility issue?

Can we all agree that ‘dismantling’ the Ferguson Police Department needs to start at the top?

Can we all agree that Daylight Savings Time is a misnomer and should be abolished?

Can we all agree that if you want see why Americans should be worried about the Workers Comp system, they should read this Propublica Series?

Can we all agree that when ‘good news’ on unemployment sends the stock market down, most Americans get a bit confused?

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