5.7 percent -- That's the most recent non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Washington state; it's the lowest it's been in four years. Still, it's higher than the national average, which is 5.4 percent. In Spokane County, the unemployment rate is at 6.0 percent. The Washington State Employment Security Department says the number of unemployed workers fell by 49,000 since last March, still leaving about 185,000 unemployed workers statewide.
Color-Coding -- Again? -- Acting as if the Department of Homeland Security's much-maligned color-coded terrorism warning system never happened, the feds have broken out their box of Crayolas for another worthy cause: obesity. As you'll find out in our cover story this week, we're a pretty fat bunch. And since pretty colors were so helpful in preparing ourselves for terrorism, why not use them to push healthier eating habits?
Instead of dusting off that old food pyramid from third grade, the fat police have created a new one, with 12 levels and rainbow-colored bands for six food groupings. We're sure they mean well, but when all those colors blend into one, it starts looking... mmmm... kind of like tutti frutti ice cream. Yay!
Fighting Back -- As Pullman is latest local town to worry about an incursion for the planet's most efficient profit machine, perhaps they can look to the East Coast for some comrades. In Maryland earlier this month, the House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to force any firm doing business in their state with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits for their workers. Only one company with that many employees isn't already spending 8 percent on health benefits in Maryland: Wal-Mart.
And Olympia may be starting to pay attention, too. According to the Washington State Hospital Association, the state has been tracking how many Wal-Mart employees are winding up in state-funded health care programs. The WSHA advocates greater levels of health coverage through businesses.
Power of the Pope -- As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been promoted to Pope Benedict XVI, it raises a sticky question in the state of Texas: Can you subpoena the Pope? A judge once ordered Ratzinger to appear in a lawsuit over alleged sex abuse by priests in Dallas. Lawyers were hoping he might elaborate on a 2003 document traced to him that encouraged Catholic bishops in the United States to deal with sex abuse cases in "the most secretive way." Just a guess, but they probably shouldn't count on Ratzinger to show up anytime soon.