One of my favorite things to do while reading the news is to spot seemingly small facts buried within larger articles. It's sort of like being in a mine and uncovering a gem.


For example, with the school year underway many parents are aware of the startup costs for a student. According to the National Retail Federation the average back-to-school spending per household this year is $674. For college students, notes that on average students spend $488 per semester on books and a new book depreciates 40 percent during that semester. (USA Today)


Educational achievement is also front and center for many people, but there is a disturbing stumbling block in this regard. Reports from Feeding America and the Urban Institute have documented how widespread hunger is afflicting American teenagers. “About one in five children under 18 — including 6.8 million youths ages 10 to 17 — live in a household with limited or uncertain access to food.” It's tough to focus on your schoolwork when you don't know if you are going to eat that day. (USA Today)


Moving on to other items, when a person on a TV game show wins a bunch of money and prizes how much of it do you think is take-home profit? Well, a guy on Wheel of Fortune won $31,700 in cash and prizes — $16,400 in cash and two vacations valued at $15,300. All game show winnings are taxed like regular income. In the end, he walked away with about $6,000 in cash. (


This proves not everything in life is free, even things we assume cost nothing. Take email, for example. The Harvard Business Review estimated at a typical company each email costs 95 cents in labor — based on average typing speed, reading speed, response rate, and volume of email. (


The elections are a pretty hot topic right now, so all the politicians are after votes. So what groups of citizens are likely to show up at the polls? “College-educated Americans are more likely to vote than those who hold only a high school degree. Of voters with bachelor's degrees, the U.S. Census found, 53 percent cast ballots in 2014, compared to just 34 percent of voters with high school degrees. About 62 percent of Americans who hold advanced degrees voted that year. The number of college-educated voters is growing. Turnout also goes up among Americans who earn more, the Census found: 48 percent of Americans who earn more than $50,000 voted in 2014 — and 56 percent of folks who make $150,000 or more did so — compared to just 31 percent of voters who earned less than $20,000.” (Detroit Free Press)


One thing you can count on in any election these days is a debate over Second Amendment rights. A new survey found: “Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But 133 million of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3 percent of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each...America’s gun stock has increased by 70 million guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25 percent to 22 percent.” (


Energy independence also seems to be a topic that surfaces during election time. The fluctuation in gas prices often comes with an excuse, a common one being the supply of crude oil has been interrupted. This excuse might be easier to believe if the United States had not exported 501,000 barrels of crude per day over the first five months of this year. That's EXPORTED – every day! The top recipient of our oil is a refinery on the Caribbean island of Curacao. The refinery is owned by Venezuela, a country with an America-hating government and a brutal dictator. You might wonder what happened to “drill-baby-drill” so this country could keep its own oil and put national interests above profits. Good question. (USA Today – Money)


Another hot subject during this election is health care. If you want to reduce your own health care costs, quit kissing chickens. This week the CDC issued a report that says there has been “an uptick in salmonella outbreaks associated with live poultry.” The survey notes that 13 percent of poultry owners engage in the risky activity of kissing their chickens. I guess I'm a city kid in this regard. The only chicken I want to kiss comes in a red and white striped bucket with a side of slaw. (Huffington Post)


Finally, everyone wants to look good. The Covergirl company recently conducted a survey among women 45-older and uncovered some interesting opinions. Seventy-five percent American women ages 45-plus who frequently wear makeup say their looks outshine the average man their age. Sixty-four percent say they have seen a picture of themselves on social media that made them look older than they felt. Forty-three percent were most concerned with smile lines and wrinkles when sharing a selfie, followed by dark circles under their eyes and uneven skin tone. If stuck on a desert island, 43 percent said lipstick would be the one item they couldn’t live without. (


Of course, Covergirl did not survey any men. If it had, it would have found that if stuck on a desert island 100 percent of guys would not give a hoot about their personal grooming, but couldn't live without a satellite hookup to the NFL RedZone.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and

Bruce Plante
Tulsa World
Sep 24, 2016