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The Great Recession ended 7 1/2 years ago, and job gains have been steady since, but greater demand for workers is only starting to increase pay.

The increases are still relatively modest, and the data are still mixed. In October, for example, the Labor Department reported average hourly earnings increased at a 2.8 percent rate — the highest since mid-2009, but wage growth slowed in November. A separate report this month showed the cost of labor — another measure of wage growth — increased especially during the spring of this year.

The monks at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Mo., were making concrete blocks when Father Cyprian Harrison joined the order in 1965. As demand for the blocks waned, the order explored other options to support the men who call the cloistered monastery home.

"After a lot of inner reflection, we decided [to get out of the concrete block business and start making] fruitcake. We only had to change the recipe a little," quips Harrison.

When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Donald Trump has proposed a very detailed tax plan — but his statements on the campaign trail don't always match what his proposal would really do.

For instance, at a rally in Scranton, Pa., Trump promised to "massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country." During a town hall meeting on NBC's Today show, he said he believes in raising taxes on the wealthy.

Life is pretty busy for Mike Buchmann, a high school art teacher and football coach, and his wife Shannon, who works as an assistant controller at a small private college near their home in Mishawaka, Ind.

Everyone is out the door by 7:45 each morning: Mike shuttles their two older kids to before-school care, while Shannon drops off their 14-month-old at a church-based child care center before they head off to their full-time jobs.

Pramila Jayapal and Brady Walkinshaw agree on the issues for the most part. Walkinshaw notes that his contributions come mostly from within Washington state; Jayapal rebuts that she is running for national office.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Campaigning before The Breakfast Group, a civic organization for African-American men, Brady Piñero Walkinshaw admitted that they had a choice between “two great progressives.”

He was referring to himself – a state representative from Capitol Hill – and Pramila Jayapal, state senator from Columbia City.

The Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation have similar-sounding names. And they've both become political targets in this election cycle. Beyond that, charities experts say, they have remarkably little in common. But the differences between them might reveal something about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Basler and Smith campaigns

Democrat Adam Smith of Bellevue is running to keep his seat in Congress, but most of his campaign cash comes not from Washington state but from Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.

Venture Capitalist Nick Hanauer, in his downtown Seattle office.
KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Millionaire Nick Hanauer is not down with how Donald Trump is skirting his taxes.

Early last month, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told a crowd at Harvard University that he would happily face time in jail to publish Donald Trump's long-withheld tax forms.

Theoretically, Baquet just might have his chance. But almost certainly, only theoretically.

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Elections are big business, with consultants, campaign staffers, advertising firms and TV stations raking in big bucks. 

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Politicians are reputed to be as eager for contributions as my cat when she sees me reaching for the wet food.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg waves after speaking to delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg has waded a quarter-million dollars deeper into Washington state politics.

Bloomberg gave $248,000 to Washington Democrats on Sept. 7, according to the latest reports filed with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

It was just a glimpse, but the scene spoke volumes — and started a push for help. Joel Cervantes Macias was struck by the sight of an elderly man pushing his cart of frozen treats on Chicago's 26th Street, so he took a photo. That was last week; as of Monday afternoon, Macias had raised more than $165,000 to help a stranger.

Close to $100 million has gone into this year's elections in Washington state so far, all aiming to influence you and your neighbors' votes.

That's just one of the things your official voters' guide won't tell you, but KUOW's new Field Guide to Influence will. The Field Guide lets you see the largely hidden actors trying to sway your vote behind the scenes.


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