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Survey: Half of us want to quit our jobs

More than half of American workers are unhappy at work, with a third already scoping out new jobs, according to a survey just released by the consulting firm Mercer. The other 21 percent of dissatisfied workers are staying, begrudgingly the survey says.

The survey, called “What’s Working,” asked 2,400 U.S. workers in late 2010 how they felt about their jobs and compensation. Responses showed a decline in almost every category versus the last survey in 2005, including pay, benefits and retirement contributions from employers.

The youngest employees were the least happy with 40 percent or more of those under 34 seriously considering leaving.

Workers considering leaving

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Republicans offer starkly different views on Obama’s Afghanistan strategy

Tim Pawlenty, seen here delivers a policy address at the University of Chicago earlier this month, has staked out the most hawkish position on the war in Afghanistan of the GOP candidates. AP/Paul Beaty

In a fundamental shift from nearly two years of aggressive counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, President Obama announced Wednesday that the United States would immediately withdraw 10,000 of its troops from the country, and said that the remaining 20,000 troops from last year’s “surge” would return home by next summer. “The tide of war is receding,” Obama said, adding that the U.S. was “meeting our goals” in Afghanistan. He also acknowledged that American forces would concede some of their more ambitious reconstruction plans in the country, declaring, “We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.”

The speech also anticipated, somewhat obliquely, what will likely be the dominant theme of the 2012 presidential campaign: “nation-building here at home,” as Obama put it. That remark echoed criticisms lodged by some of Obama’s Republican rivals, particularly former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has argued that America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been too costly, and that America’s military commitments abroad have come at the expense of its economic strength at home.

For the most part, however, the speech elicited only a muted response from the Republican presidential candidates, and showcased the fractures within the party on America’s foreign policy. With the exception of Huntsman, who served as the president’s envoy to China until April, the Republican hopefuls collectively have only limited foreign policy experience, and have been reluctant to make American interventionism a major part of the campaign. They plan instead to focus laser-like on the economy and government spending, which are by far the most important issues among voters of all political affiliations, especially conservatives. As Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, put it in an interview: “Wars have faded from the front lines of Americans’ consciousness.”

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Marriage as performance art

Maria the Korean Bride with Eddie at the Drive-In Say I Do Chapel in Nevada, June 17, 2002.

Performance artist Maria Yoon, like many single women of a certain age, felt a growing pressure to wed. But rather than settling for the traditional trajectory of courtship and marriage, Yoon took matrimony to the next level with a wedding-cum-performance art piece that made a pitstop in every state across the country. Having performed the role of bride opposite a revolving cast of “spouses” for more than eight years, Yoon recently concluded her project when she said “I do” for the 50th – and last – time in New York City’s Times Square last month.

I recently talked to Yoon about “Maria the Korean Bride,” and how the experience changed her views about marriage and its evolving role in contemporary American culture.
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Photo: The sky is falling?

Heavy storm clouds darken the sky as rain and wind gusts blow over downtown Omaha, Nebraska, on Monday. Photo: AP/Dave Weaver

Photo: Your penguin roundup

A young Antarctic Emperor penguin walks along Peka Peka Beach in New Zealand after it got lost while hunting for food Monday. Photo: AP/Richard Gill, Department of Conservation

If you feel like you haven’t gotten enough penguins in your life after taking the kids to see “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” this weekend, you are in luck, because there are a few more waddlers in the news today.

Straight out of “Happy Feet,” yet another penguin movie, comes the tale of the young Emperor penguin that showed up on a New Zealand beach Monday night. Conservation experts think the 10-month-old, 32-inch-tall penguin simply got lost while searching for food. Since Emperor penguins can spend months out at sea, and this little fellow seems well fed with plenty of body fat, officials are taking a hand-off approach and feel the bird will return to sea to feed and eventually make its way back home to the Antarctic. The last time a wayward penguin showed up in the South Pacific country was 44 years ago.

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As activist detentions wind down in China, a wave of unrest poses a new challenge

Chinese security personnel face off protesters on a street of Xilinhot in northern China's Inner Mongolia province on May 23, 2011. Photo: AP/Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center

Update | June 22 Xinhua reports that Ai WeiWei was released today on bail “because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.”

It’s been nearly four months since Chinese authorities initiated a sweep of detentions of human rights lawyers and activists in China for fear of an impending “Jasmine” revolution inspired by protests in the Middle East. As the number of activist arrests has slowed to a crawl and detainees are gradually released to return home or to face trial, the Chinese government has focused its energy instead on tackling a new wave of unrest in Tibet, Mongolia and southern China.

The organization China Human Rights Defenders reports that out of nearly 50 people detained in China since February, when an anonymous call for “Jasmine” protests began to spread on Twitter, 32 have been released (22 of whom are on bail and awaiting trial), while nine were formally arrested, three were sent to re-education labor camps and four remain in detention. The group notes that at least ten other activists are still missing.
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Photo: Wardrobe malfunction or costume change?

A boy skateboards in front of the World War II Soviet Army monument in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Friday. The monument had been painted overnight by an unknown artist to look like Superman, Santa Claus, Ronald McDonald and others. The graffiti below them reads: "Moving with the times". Photo: AP/Oleg Popov

Is Jon Huntsman the GOP’s ‘serious’ candidate (and do they even want one)?

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Photo: AP/Elise Amendola

A rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. An end to the bombing campaign in Libya. Deep cuts to military spending. And a more aggressive pro-democracy stance in China.

These positions would seem to belong to the platform of a Democrat, perhaps a disaffected member of the party’s liberal wing, seeking to challenge President Obama from the left.

In fact, they are among the core tenets of a campaign that will begin on Tuesday — when former Gov. Jon Huntsman, most recently the ambassador to China, announces his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president.

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Bloomsday, I said yes

Happy Bloomsday in Dublin, 2007! Photo: Flickr/Ted Rheingold

James Joyce enthusiasts – as well as fans of drinking, swimming and running – around the world are celebrating the 107th anniversary of Bloomsday today.

June 16 marks this annual homage to the Irish author and his 1922 novel “Ulysses.” The date is central to both Joyce’s life and the novel: Joyce is believed to have first gone out with Nora Barnacle, who later became his wife, on June 16; “Ulysses” takes place entirely on June 16, 1904, beginning at 8 a.m.
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