Lunch Links

Lunch Links

As you sit down to lunch today, here’s some food for thought: Military families’ reliance on food stamps hit a record high last year.

Think Progress reports that food stamp spending by servicemen and women exceeded $100 million in 2013:

‘Food stamp usage at the stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult financial situation faced by military families. New soldiers with a child and a spouse earn $20,000 per year in pay, according to CNN Money, and the frequent relocations and disruptions inherent to the lifestyle of a military family make it harder for military spouses to find jobs and bring in supplementary income. The unemployment rate for young military spouses was 30 percent in 2012. Retired military servicemen and women who joined up after 9/11 have a 10 percent unemployment rate, which also contributes to the elevated food stamp figures at DOD commissaries, and nearly a million working-age veterans lived in poverty in 2010.’

And the recent cuts to food stamps have impacted more then just veterans. Alan Briggs, executive director of the NC Association of Food Banks, tells Policy Watch prolonged unemployment, reduced hours, and stagnant wages have more North Carolinians turning to the state’s food pantries to make ends meet.

You can hear Briggs’ full radio interview here with Chris Fitzsimon, or watch a short video excerpt of that segment below:
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One step forward, one step back? WRAL.com reports that the number of backlogged food stamp cases is on the up-tick again, just a week after the first federal deadline to clear the majority of delayed cases. The NC Department of Health and Human Services is facing an additional March 31 deadline to clear its remaining backlog of cases.

While we’re on the subject of struggling families, be sure to join the NC Justice Center this evening for a free screening of Inequality for All, a new documentary addressing widening income inequality in the United States presented by American economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

Reich takes on the enormous question of what has been happening to our economy – distilling the story through the lens of widening income inequality. He explores what effect this increasing gap has not only on our economy but our democracy itself.

Tonight’s doc will be shown from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building in Raleigh.

Finally we’ll close out today’s lunch links with Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox. Their rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine has gone viral over the past few days.  All we can say is step aside Axl Rose, blues diva Miche Braden steals the show:
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Lunch Links
Photo: Flickr

Photo: Flickr

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, and people stuck inside these past few days are scrambling. Stores have been closed, and many flower deliveries might be delayed.

Not to worry — today you can dig out and make up for the delay. You’ll be digging deeper into your pocket, though. The Wall Street Journal reports that prices of cocoa are up 9% this year, and flowers are always more expensive on this day. In fact everything — flowers, chocolate, wine, dinner, jewelry — costs more on Valentine’s Day.

And yes, the snow day(s) were fun, though most of us are stir crazy by now.  Thankfully the weather brought us entertainment while stuck inside — plenty of photos and videos of sliding cars, traffic jams and cute puppies in the snow. 

My favorite (now gone viral):  Durham Academy’s school cancellation video. Here it is, one more time:

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Life did go on elsewhere. Comcast announced it’s buying Time-Warner, a judge in Virginia threw out that state’s same-sex marriage ban, the Winter Olympics continued through a heat wave, the Duke – Carolina men’s hoops game was rescheduled, and Beatles fans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the band’s debut in America (well, that was actually a week ago on Feb. 7).

In honor of that, and to bring you into the long weekend, here’s my favorite Beatle, George Harrison and a few friends — Ringo Starr, Elton John, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton — with a message to make you smile.

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Lunch Links

By the time you read this, you should be all stocked up on the necessary ice storm essentials: batteries, flashlights, water, non-perishable food items, and board games. (Might I recommend a favorite: The Settlers of Catan.)

If you manage to hold on to your electricity (CNN reports that 93,000 in the south have already lost power), WRAL’s iControl Doppler allows you to track where the storm is at, providing you with some feelings of control (even though you have no control).

Now before the storm hits and you still have power, check out this astonishing story from the Charlotte Observer about a private-turned-charter school in Charlotte that is under intense scrutiny upon discovery that students were napping during the day, had no textbooks, teachers were required to work 12-hour days, and some staff went without pay, among many other huge problems involving fiscal mismanagement.

The story paints a clear picture about what can go terribly wrong when state oversight of charter schools is lax and requirements to set up shop are minimal.

Book banning is still a thing in North Carolina. In Watauga County, the local school board will decide on Feb. 27 whether or not to remove Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits from the sophomore-level English reading list.

High school students in Stokes County are closely monitoring the Dan River coal ash spill. Students who took a field trip to the river wanted to test the water and blog about their findings, but river keeper staff warned them that it would be too dangerous to conduct their own experiments.

Well, on those happy notes–stay safe everyone, and be sure to have plenty of blankets and company on hand as you ride out the storm!

Lunch Links

Reaction continues to roll-in to Governor Pat McCrory’s plan to raise the pay of staring teachers. The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer calls the proposal insufficient:

In fact, if all the state does is boost starting teacher pay, most teachers will get nothing out of the deal. McCrory said 32,000 of the state’s 95,000 teachers would receive a raise under the proposal.

This proposal is a slap in the face to all those other teachers. They have toiled in N.C. schools without a pay raise for all but one of the last five years. And they did so under trying conditions as lawmakers boosted class sizes, eliminated money for teacher assistants and slashed funds for textbooks and other resources.

Delaying raises for them until the “revenue picture becomes clearer” is unacceptable.

Rep. Rick Glazier also finds it unacceptable that the governor and legislative leaders would roll out a plan that neglects veteran teachers, many of whom are already looking to other states for higher wages:

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Tomorrow the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission will meet for the first time since that massive coal ash spill polluted the Dan River. In advance of that meeting, read this article in Mother Jones detailing how North Carolina protected Duke Energy from pollution complaints long before this disaster.

On the lighter side, if all the talk of snow and ice has you thinking of the Winter Games (or games you can play in a wintry mix) check out the science of curling:

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And finally, the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show wraps up this evening at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  Dog lovers carve out a few minutes to scroll through these great images at The Big Picture.

Enjoy your lunch break!

Lunch Links

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As the Winter Olympics begin (with some events today and opening ceremonies tomorrow), here’s a few story lines to catch up on and some people to keep an eye out for.

There’s been plenty of drama in Sochi already — some silly, some not so much. In addition to fears of terrorism and the unprecedented security measures they’ve prompted, there’s this: 

  • Hacking is a sure thing.  The State Department is warning visitors to Sochi of rampant hacking to phones, laptops, etc. “Travelers  should have no expectation of privacy while in Russia.”
  •  Will there be snow?  Before it hosted the games, Sochi was known as a beach destination. How did it get the snow?
  • Give us our Chobani. The U.S. and Russia are staring each other down over thousands of  containers of Chobani yogurt destined for the U.S. team but sitting instead in cold storage near Newark Liberty International Airport. According to this report, the Russians claim that the Americans have not submitted the proper paperwork. “The United States says the certification required by the Russians would be impossible to attain.”

Close to 2800 athletes are set to compete over the next two weeks; some we’ll recognize, some we won’t.  

They’ll include “the Flying Tomato” Shaun White, who earlier in the year cut his famous red locks for a charity event, competing now only in the halfpipe after a brief dalliance with the slopestyle, a new Olympic snowboarding event (he dropped out of that event just days ago); everybody’s favorite bad boy Bode Miller; and former track and field star Lolo Jones, now competing in bobsledding.  

The games will also include, though, an assortment of violinists, bricklayers and underwearmakers and other unknowns– some of whom will hopefully be more famous for their athletic prowess by games-end. Here’s a few to watch out for.

Finally, for all those who remember what it’s like to wrestle full ice hockey gear on a 6-year-old at 5 in the morning and for all the moms, dads, friends, families and communities who helped our athletes achieve their dreams, here’s a tribute. (Yes, it’s a commercial directed at moms, but the sentiment applies across the board.)

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