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This morning the Labor Department unveiled the data on hiring for December, and the latest unemployment rate. The speculation about a positive surprise turned out to be for naught: The economy added 155,000 jobs — just about what analysts had expected. After a slight upward revision for November, the unemployment rate is unchanged at 7.8 percent. Each month when this crucial report hits we talk with Alan Krueger. He’s a Princeton economist and chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. Listen to his thoughts on the report here.
The Federal Trade Commission has ended its investigation of anticompetitive practices by Google. The key allegation from competitors like Microsoft and Yelp was that Google uses its search results to privilege its own services. In the end, it’s a solid win for the tech company: The FTC is not requiring any major changes to Google’s search or other operations. With this win behind it, what challenges are still facing the search giant?
The end of 2012 also brought an end to one of the longest hoaxes in Wikipedia history. For five years, a lengthy, well-sourced Wikipedia article detailed the “Bicholim Conflict:” An undeclared war in 1640 between Portugal and India. Last month, according to the online newspaper The Daily Dot, a curious Wikipedia user decided to trace the sources for the article. None of them existed. Wikipedia swiftly moved the page from its active site to sort of “wall of shame” it maintains for exposed hoaxes. No apology, though, for all those middle schoolers who wrote reports on the Bicholim Conflict for history class.
An investigation into tax evasion by wealthy Americans has ended in the shutdown of a 250-year-old Swiss bank. Wegelin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to help U.S. customers evade taxes. The bank has agreed to pay more than $57 million to the U.S. authorities. It’s unclear yet if the bank will actually turn over the names of the Americans involved.
The latest data this week showed home mortgage applications continue on something of a tear — both for refinances and home purchases. The trend also applies for so-called “jumbo” mortgages — loans above $625,000. These loans are too big to be backed by Fannie and Freddie. But to get a jumbo you’re going to need pretty good credit.
In the recent election, Colorado and Washington voters legalized marijuana for recreational use. Officials are working on rules for stores and farms, along with figuring out how to handle quality control and tax collections, and those would-be ‘pot-trepreneurs’ are looking at potential profits.
And finally, Gold is a status-symbol in western culture, but nothing like it is in India. That traditional reverence for gold has now given rise to the Man in the Solid Gold Shirt. A businessman from Pimpri was already known for loading up his neck and wrists with more gold than the members of Run-DMC put together. Now, according to the local Pune Mirror, he has commissioned a shirt made from 14,000 gold pieces. The man calls the shirt an investment — though he does evidently wear the thing around town. It’s also an investment in burning calories: The shirt weighs almost eight pounds.