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$15 an Hour

Jack Up Those Fast Food Wages!

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As fast food workers strike for higher wages, pundits are dismissing their demands as unrealistic. But an exploding burger chain in Detroit proves the naysayers are thinking in a box.

Around the country Thursday, fast-food workers and their allies demonstrated to call attention to the plight of low-wage service workers. One of the demands is that highly profitable, massive enterprises like McDonald’s and Burger King should pay employees $15 an hour, which is more than double the legally-required minimum wage in most parts of the country.Many observers regard such a suggestion as absurd on its face— “economic fantasy at its most delusional and counterproductive,” as my colleague Nick Gillespie put it here on Wednesday.

Up and Down

All that Glitters

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The latest wild commodity is none other than one of the oldest: gold. A new book by journalist Matthew Hart takes readers on a while ride from South African gold mines to the trading desks where gold fortunes area made and broken.

“We are on the biggest gold binge ever,” writes Matthew Hart. “Never has there been so much to buy and such a frenzied trade.” The economic meltdown certainly played a part in this binge; gold prices doubled between 2008 and 2011 as investors sought refuge from the rocky financial markets. But as Hart whisks us around the globe and across the centuries with the breezy panache of a seasoned journalist, we see that the origins of the current gold boom lie in policies and practices implemented well before 2008—and that anyone who thinks gold is a “safe haven” should think again.

Pay Up

It’s the Wages, Stupid

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

When will corporate America realize it doesn’t pay enough?

President Obama gave a big, progressive, somewhat impassioned speech about inequality, wages, and the economy on Wednesday.Welcomed by the left, and sure to be jeered or ignored by the right, it was full of plenty of old-time Democratic economic gospel and present-day center-left thought leadership. But it was a little bit light on the main factor that can combat the scourge of low wages and rising inequality: an appeal to the conscience and self-interest of businesses.

Nickel and Dimed

Big Labor’s Big Mac Attack

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Fast-food workers are calling for nationwide strikes on Thursday to protest low wages. And management and customers alike have every reason to tell them to pound sand.

In what is probably the least inspired labor action since the great Detroit Symphony Orchestra Picket Line of 2011, groups such as the Service Employees International Union, Fast Food Forward, and Fight for 15 are calling for nation-wide wage strikes targeting McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and other latter-day Dickensian workhouses. On Thursday, protesters in over 100 cities will stand outside of fast-food joints and call for doubling the wages of burger flippers and fry-vat operators from $7.

Oh Santa

The LED Stocking Stuffer

The Daily Beast

Give the gift of light this year! You may look like a Scrooge at first, but your present will be paying dividends for years to come.

My bright idea for a high-tech gift for this holiday season is actually a 19th century invention: a light bulb.Most people would regard a light bulb in their stocking with the same enthusiasm with which they’d greet a lump of coal. But they shouldn’t. For this year, when you give the gift of an expensive, highly-efficient, LED, you’ll be bringing light—and an annuity that could pay out a couple hundred dollars of dividends over the next decade.

LUXURY

Hottest Black Friday Item: A Towel

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For 29 cents at Walmart.

It is reassuring that this probably means Americans take a lot of showers. The most popular items at Walmart on Black Friday were towels. Yes, towels. Almost three million towels were sold from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday, compared to 300,000 bicycles, 1.4 million tablets, and two million televisions. In fact, sales of towels this year outpaced last year’s by 1 million. "A lot of people are either hosting guests for the weekend or preparing for guests for the holiday season," said Walmart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett. The internet was full of videos of people fighting to get their hands on towels (which at $1.74 for a six pack, were $.29 a towel), with one showing a police officer having to hold shoppers back.

Read it at NBC News

Former Henchman Turns on Madoff

Gregory P. Mango/Splash News

Frank DiPascali, a 33-year employee of the firm that ran the largest Ponzi scheme in recent history, took to the stand to testify against his former colleagues.

Frank DiPascali, the Bernie Madoff henchman who won the role as the star witness in the biggest fraud case in American history, torched five of his former colleagues with his testimony Monday in federal court. Perhaps more important, DiPascali is the first witness to demolish the myth that Bernard Madoff ever had a legitimate investment advisory business. The star witness also pulverized Madoff’s assertion that he had acted alone in constructing the biggest Ponzi scheme in history as he began implicating the five Madoff employees whose defense essentially is that they too were duped by Bernie and did not realize they too were committing fraud.

Honest Campaign

How to Fix Obamacare’s Lousy Ads

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The White House says the troubled HealthCare.gov has been fixed—but what about the marketing campaign that’s causing the Obamacare death spiral? First you have to motivate millennials.

So what’s the biggest problem with Obamacare right now?The botched website?If only.According to Obama administration officials, that has mostly been fixed. The more worrying issue threatening the Affordable Care Act is the marketing of the new legislation to those most crucial to the plan’s viability—the young and healthy, or as the health-care industry refers to them, the “young invincibles.”So far, the advertising that’s targeting the under-35 market has been abysmal.

Pie in the Sky

Amazon’s Drone Fantasies

Amazon

Jeff Bezos says an unmanned aircraft could be dropping books at your door in five years. But he glossed over the huge legal, technological, and ethical hurdles in his way.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s announcement that his company is exploring the option of delivery drones was an early Christmas present for members of the unmanned aircraft systems community—or UAS as they’re called among advocates.“It’s really valuable to [us] that such a big player as Amazon is entering this arena,” said Matthew Schroyer, founder of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, an organization dedicated to helping develop UAS systems for reporters.

Doorbusters

All They Want For Xmas Is Shoppers

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Black Friday wasn’t a bust—shoppers spent about as much as they did in 2012. But until big retailers pay employees more, they shouldn’t expect a real boom in holiday sales.

Judging by the first returns, the big holiday shopping season was something of a disappointment. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers estimated that they would spend about 2.7 percent less over the 2013 Thanksgiving shopping weekend than they did in 2012.We shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this widely quoted data point. To begin with, NRF’s number is an estimate based on what consumers said about their intentions, not an actual measurement of sales.

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Shame on You, Walmart!

With an Ohio Walmart hosting a holiday food drive for its own workers, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticizes the notoriously stingy company for not paying them more.

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