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Uncounted, Unstoppable: The Working Poor

The New York City recyclers in the Oscar-nominated documentary short 'Redemption', like Lilly, survive on the cans and plastic they cash in.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: What our unemployed-without-assistance working neighbors do to get by; Texas' next (energy) generation needs, chat online with the police and more.

The average number of workers reported as "out of the labor force" is 44 percent within a given South Dallas tract, according to a census crunch by the Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze. They don’t have a job and aren’t applying for jobs, but they’re not unemployed by government standards. So how are they eating with no government assistance and no steady gig or expectation to find one?

They’re putting in full-time hours or more washing cars near Fair Park; they’re raking through dumpsters to fish out cardboard for recycling. Schutze talked to a few of these people and found some pretty grounding stories of persistence despite disease and addiction and loss.

Area appreciators of the short documentary got some perspective on what it feels like to rake through trash while your children watch: Redemption, one of the shorts nominated for an Oscar this year, follows the diverse working poor of New York City who survive on cans and plastic they redeem for a living, and on the tender friendships they make during harsh days.  The short screened along with the other nominated works (and the winner, Inocente) at Texas Theatre this weekend before the awards show.

  • The Public Utility Commission of Texas took some heat when the three-member group voted to raise the price cap on wholesale electricity this summer. Rolando Pablos is leaving his post on the PUC for another job in El Paso. His parting words to citizens upset about luring more power plants at their own cost after the trickle-down: "Because Texas is growing at such a fast rate, we need to be able to keep up with that demand. If we don’t keep up with new generation, we’re going to be in trouble." [Dallas Business Journal]

  • Preservation Texas released its list of the state’s most endangered historic sites saved and lost last year. Dallas’ Statler Hilton was among the rescued. The Dallas Morning News got a peek at the redo in March. And new beginnings abound in the vicinity. The Statler overlooks Main Street Garden and the city's old Municipal Building, where the city plans to house the University of North Texas' new law school. [Preservation Texas]

  • So you’re at a restaurant in Arlington and you’re pretty sure the woman a couple booths over is a ringer for the one pictured on police department’s Most Wanted poster. What do you do? You could A) call 911, not realizing in the rush of the moment that this is not that kind of emergency; or B) log on to APD’s 24-hour Live Chat system, saving the department money and time. APD hopes citizens will choose the latter, as officers deem a yearlong test a success. [Arlington Police Department]

  • If you like to treat your wee-hours insomnia with a dose of KERA-Channel 13, be aware that the station will be off the air for technical work between 1 and 5 a.m. Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Great time to pop in a Downton Abbey DVD -- or so we hear.