8 Fascinating Reads

Happy Friday! There are more good articles on the web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating pieces I read this week.

Broke nation
Most Americans couldn't last long without a paycheck, writes MainStreet.com

Some 59% of U.S. workers said they would only be able to pay their bills without a paycheck for 12 weeks if they became sick and unable to work, according to a new national survey from Cigna.

Even more alarming is that 29% said they would exhaust their resources in a month or less. Workers are overwhelmingly unprepared financially to weather a costly injury or illness that keeps them out of work.

Game changer
Health-care cost growth has plunged, asthis chart from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows:

South Korea takes school exams very seriously, writes The Financial Times: 

Time was put on hold in South Korea on Thursday as financial markets and public offices opened late to ensure calm when more than 650,000 students sat the annual university entrance exam. Success in the test is critical to millions of young students' career and marriage prospects.

Trading at the Korea Stock Exchange and the country's foreign exchange market began at 10am, an hour later than usual, to keep roads clear while aircraft will be grounded in the afternoon during the English listening test. About 65 commercial flights have been rescheduled to avoid take-off or landing for 30 minutes from 1.05pm.

This should go over well 
Austerity in the U.K. has come to this

The Queen asked ministers for a poverty handout to help heat her palaces but was rebuffed because they feared it would be a public relations disaster, documents disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

Royal aides were told that the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed at families on low incomes and if the money was given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing associations or hospitals it could lead to "adverse publicity" for the Queen and the Government.

Low prices, everyday
Wal-Mart is setting a new standard for low pay. From Business Insider

A Cleveland Wal-Mart store is holding a food drive -- for its own employees. 

"Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner," reads a sign accompanied by several plastic bins.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported on the food drive, which has sparked outrage in the area.

"That Wal-Mart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers -- to me, it is a moral outrage," Norma Mills, a customer at the store, told the Plain Dealer

After Fukushima, Japan is going big on solar. Check out this new solar field, large enough to power 22,000 Japanese homes (via Slate): 

Like [convicted fraudster Alan] Stanford, Mr. Spangler relied on people failing to read or understand what was on their quarterly statements. Reports from the Stanford Financial Group were filled with small quantities of legitimate securities and had a line or two at the end showing the bulk of the money was in certificates of deposit later determined to be fraudulent.Victims
The New York Timeswrites about a crooked financial advisor who turned out to be running a Ponzi scheme:

In Mr. Spangler's statements, he provided only a breakdown of how money was allocated to his various funds.

"There was no indication on the statements," Mr. Boyd said. "They painted a very rosy picture. They showed our basis and current value for every investment we had. Our money had grown by 40 percent."

How the world grows
Statistician Hans Rosling made an incredibly good video on global population growth. Watch the whole thing here -- you won't regret it. 

Enjoy your weekend. 

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