The proposed farm bill would cut nearly $1 billion a year from the food stamp program, known as SNAP. While it's far less than what Republicans had originally wanted, the proposal will affect roughly 850,000 households, many of which are still struggling from cuts made only three months ago.
Where are the Nannies Without Borders when you need them? For working parents who have already blown through their repertoire of "fun things to do with kids when you're stuck inside!" -- and also their patience and vacation days-- this winter has been particularly cruel.
And it threatens to get worse. In Boston earlier this month, on the same day that school was cancelled, yet again, an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School unleashed a pro-snow day study. It concluded that snow days don't, in fact, have a negative impact on learning -- a finding that threatens to embolden superintendents to err on the side of cancellation. Talk about kicking parents while they're down.
Psychologists have yet to name the combination of despair and bitterness a snow day can trigger, but it's not unlike the famous five stages of grief described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Based on interviews I've conducted with house-bound would-be working parents, they are:
Stage One: Denial
- "It doesn't look like it's accumulating."
- "The meteorologists are always wrong."
- "If they were going to call a snowday, they would have called it already."
Stage Two: Anger
- "I stayed home last time -- my husband/wife is staying home tomorrow."
- "Let my boss spend the day with a two-year-old and see how easy it is to get work done."
- "When I was a kid they never cancelled school."
Stage Three: Bargaining
- "If they don't cancel school tomorrow, I promise I will: a) chaperone a field trip; b) get off my phone when my son is at bat; c) be better about making sure my kids floss, and not just the morning of the dentist appointment."
Stage Four: Depression
- "That brown-noser in accounting is going to make a play for my job."
- "I'm going to be stuck at home with a toddler and a kindergartner, and they're going to want to go sledding."
- "I am powerless over the hot chocolate and brownies I bought in a pathetic attempt to make the day seem festive."
Stage five: Acceptance
- "My children are going to spend eight hours playing Madden."
Anger and frustration followed an incident Tuesday, in which up to 40 students had their lunches taken away from them at the cashier's station in an elementary school cafeteria. The food was thrown away; the students were told their accounts had no credit on them.
On Saturday, Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, an honor which has brought her top billing in a British poll of the world’s ten most powerful female financiers. Eight of the women – including Yellen – combined their glittering careers with a family and children.
This may come as a revelation to Nigel Farage, head of the fast-growing U.K. Independence Party. Farage has just caused a storm of protest with some outspoken comments in London’s financial centre – the City as it’s known – on the subject of maternity and work. To quote:
"If a woman broker who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away," said Farage, claiming that said woman's clients will have drifted off, and her contacts will have dwindled.
"This helps explain why female finance workers in Britain earn on average 30% less than men," he said.
Should Nigel Farage know what he’s talking about? He spent more than 20 years working as a commodities broker before he became involved in politics.
"He’s talking absolute rubbish!" declares Louise Cooper – a former stockbroker and a mother of two. "You don’t get two or three years off to have a baby. The maximum amount of time you get off is 12 months. And many women choose to take four, five, or six months. That is usually much less than gardening leave," says Cooper.
"Gardening leave" is the time that city workers – having quit their jobs – must stay away from work before they are allowed to join a rival company. In London, it usually lasts six months to a year.
Cooper asks: "Why is six months or so of maternity leave more damaging to a company than twelve months of gardening leave?"
Kirstie Ayre – an employment expert with the Pinsent Masons law firm - said the notion that women are "somehow intrinsically worth less to financial institutions because they might leave to have a family is laughable."
"These days when an employee leaves, the company does not automatically lose clients. Those contacts are usually shared between teams of employees," she said.
Others complained that Nigel Farage’s comments were harmful to working mothers.
"We found his remarks very disappointing. This will make life so much more difficult for the many women who are doing a very impressive job of balancing their work and family responsibilities," said Rosalind Bragg, director of the charity Maternity Action.
Bragg is afraid that Farage’s comments will fuel further prejudice against working women, already a major problem.
"Since the economic downturn began, the rates of pregnancy discrimination in the U.K. have grown dramatically, and that’s true of the finance sector as much as it is of the wider labor market. In 2006, 30,000 women lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination, and now the figure’s risen to about 60,000 a year. That’s roughly 1 in 7 pregnant women in the workforce," she said.
Rogers, the current head of U.S. Cyber Command, is a cryptologist by trade. If confirmed, he'll take over the spy agency at a crucial time in its history, when its activities have come under close public scrutiny.
The appeals court in Florence found Knox and her ex-boyfriend guilty of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher and sentenced her to 28 1/2 years in prison. Knox currently lives in Seattle, and the sentence is likely to set up a long battle over her extradition.
Human Rights Watch says neighborhoods in the capital, Damascus, and the city of Hama were targeted by the government because they were opposition strongholds.
Paramount became the first big studio to distribute a major film in the U.S. only in digital, and others will probably follow. Small cinemas are struggling to raise money for the transition. Despite resistance from some major directors, the end of film is almost upon us.
The American actress has stepped down as a goodwill representative for Oxfam International. She came in for criticism after agreeing to serve as a spokeswoman, and appear in a Super Bowl ad, for an Israeli company that produces at-home soda-makers in the occupied West Bank.
The world's largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins is seeing unprecedented deaths among young birds. A scientist who has spent 30 years studying the penguins says that climate change is to blame — triggering, among other things, more heat waves and wetter storms that kill fledglings.
Federal prisons are chronically overcrowded after years of "tough on crime" policies. But a new report finds that a majority of states cut their imprisonment rates and saved millions — while keeping crime down.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would lower mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and allow judges to use more discretion when determining sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio moved toward fulfilling a major campaign promise on Thursday: he announced the city will settle a long-running lawsuit against the police department's stop-and-frisk policy. A federal judge last year found that the NYPD violated the civil rights of blacks and Latinos with its aggressive tactics. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration appealed the ruling, but de Blasio won a landslide electoral victory in 2013 partly by promising to reform the stop-and-frisk policy. Now, some New Yorkers are worried about a possible rise in crime.
The FAA is poised to decide whether to grant the space company a launch license. If it does, SpaceX could build its first commercial orbital launch facility near the border city of Brownsville. The prospect of living in the world's newest aerospace hub has stirred a buzz among locals.
“Sex is inextricably linked to fashion and apparel. And it has been and always will be. And our clothing is connected to our sexual expression so of course, advertising related to clothing, there’s going to be a sexual connection forever, whether it’s Calvin Klein, American Apparel, or brands we haven’t even contemplated." Kai Ryssdal: Do you ever look at one of your billboards and go: Whoa, alright wait, we went too far?
Dov Charney: Absolutely.
KR: And then what do you do?
DC: We put up another one. On the importance of Made-in-USA
“I don’t think it’s very important to the customer and I’m glad that it’s not.” He clarifies that the "made in LA" aspect of the brand “brings flavor and it should also call attention to the fact that we make the merchandise ourselves which is very important.” On his biggest weakness
“My biggest weakness is me. I mean, lock me up already! It’s obvious! Put me in a cage, I’ll be fine. I’m my own worst enemy. But what can you do—I was born strange.”
Inside American Apparel's factory Charney opened his first retail store in 2004, in Los Angeles. The bulk of American Apparel manufacturing happens in an immense warehouse in the city's downtown district. Employees from all departments work together out of the bright pink building. "We have sellers, marketers, photographers, computer programmers, IT experts, production, product design, scheduling, forecasting, retail development, everybody is connected to this building," Charney says. The last few years have been financially difficult for the company. "Right now, we’re retrenching a little bit because it’s unclear what the future of bricks and mortar retail is," says Charney. He has plans to build up the company's presence online and to expand the business in the future. Charney's no stranger to personal difficulties as well. He's faced several sexual harassment lawsuits from past employees, most of which have been dropped. He's also faced criticism for the sexual images American Apparel uses on billboards that promote the brand.
When Facebook went public just over a year ago, not everyone thought it was worth the 40 bucks that investors paid. Today, that picture has changed.
Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries, said the concern back then was that Facebook basically made no money on mobile advertising.
"It was very unsure as to whether Facebook would be a viable player in the mobile arena, and that was one of the reasons the stock had a very bad IPO," Sweeney said.
But yesterday the company said it booked about $2.6 billion in revenues, a little more than half of which came from mobile advertising. Facebook now owns 16 percent of the mobile ad market. That's still way behind Google, which owns 53 percent, but it’s quite a turnaround.
Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at e-marketer, says a revisioning of Facebook’s mobile app sparked that change.
“To its credit, once it realized that mobile was going to be so important to its future, [Facebook] did work fast, and it did develop an app that ended up working really well,” said Williamson.
Best of all, people actually started to use the app.
Then there was the CEO's change of heart. Williamson said Mark Zuckerberg was initially resistant to advertising, wanting to keep the site as "clean" as possible. But since the IPO, shareholder interests have trumped startup sensibilities, and the company has pursued ad dollars aggressively.
Facebook now has more than a billion users. But some investors worry the company is losing the key teen demographic. Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, isn’t worried. He said Facebook is now more than just a hangout.
“Facebook has been a utility for consumers and for advertiser alike for a very long time,” said Wieser. He means it’s like email or the telephone -- it’s where we keep our contacts, and communicate with each other.
Morever, he adds, Facebook owns Instagram, which teens love. For now!
Quarterly earnings for Exxon Mobil weren’t as good as Wall Street types had expected. Exxon’s oil production is down. The world's largest publically-traded oil company is struggling to tap new reserves to boost production -- a challenge facing all the big American oil companies.
Oil isn’t as accessible as it used to be.
“A lot of the low-hanging fruit with respect to oil production has long ago been picked,” says Morningstar equity analyst Allan Good.
Countries like China now have state-run companies to extract their own oil. So companies like Exxon have to search farther away, even if that means the ends of the earth.
Good says: “Whether it be in Argentina, or even west Siberia, there’s a lot of opportunity there.”
Opportunity, yes. But at a price.
For example, Exxon is exploring off-shore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
“These are much higher costs than we’ve historically had,” Good says,
New technology is helping -- kind of.
“Fracking has opened up new reserves to all the oil and gas industry,” says Scott Tinker, the state geologist for Texas. He researches oil and gas production for the University of Texas at Austin.
Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ has a bad reputation with some environmentalists. And companies may have stayed clear of the practice to avoid negative p-r.
But if companies waited to invest in fracking, they’ve been penalized.
“It’s more expensive, typically, if you’re late to the game in a particular basin. The price has gone up,” says Tinker.
For big oil companies, fracking is actually the safe play.
Deep-water drilling is more risky.
“Off-shore wells cost tremendously more than an on-shore hydraulically fractured well. But they produce more,” says Tinker.
Despite all these challenges, Exxon has new projects that should come online in the next few years. And Exxon’s production is expected to increase going forward.
Analysts say the oil business will remain profitable.
Just less so.
Nicole Maines, who is biologically male but identifies as female, had sued after officials at her school barred her from using the girls' restroom.
We got the big economic growth number out today, Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, a measure of all of the goods and services the country produces. It’s considered to be one of the main measures of economic growth -- and in the last quarter of 2013, the economy grew 3.2 percent.
A lot of that growth was thanks to us.
"Roughly about 70 percent of the growth rate in the GDP was consumer spending," says Nicole Mayerhauser, chief of the national income and wealth division at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. She helped put out today's GDP numbers.
Mayerhauser says one of the biggest areas of spending growth was the amount of money consumers spent eating out and staying in hotels. That number saw its biggest increase in more than 20 years. Another big area where consumers spent more? Shoes and new clothes. Turns out, we spent a lot of money on us last quarter.
"One area of strength was services spending, and that would include going to the movies, or haircuts," says Michelle Meyer, senior U.S. economist at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch. Don’t hate consumers for making themselves beautiful, she says -- the fact we’re spending like this is a good sign. "Consumers are starting to feel comfortable spending on a wider range of goods. It’s not just things that they need to have."
We may be spending more, but we’re not actually earning more. Wages were stagnant last quarter.
"We are using our credit cards and building up those limits again," says Ken Goldstein, an economist at The Conference Board
So we were making ourselves beautiful, but on credit.
Part of the reason is that we feel wealthier. Home values have been on the rise, and the stock market made huge gains in 2013. Still, the spending trend worries economist Matthew Slaughter, associate dean of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "If we don’t get continued and in fact stronger growth in employment and in income, there’s a limit to how much households can increase their spending prudently."
Slaughter says long term growth can’t hinge on steak dinners and new boots. Other parts of the economy need to start growing, so consumers can start earning and saving more and, of course, spending more.