Argentina may have found the solution to the U.S.'s rising unemployment rate, which reached 5.6% in September. On Argentinian reality TV show Recursos Humanos, jobless contestants duke it out for real jobs, employee benefits, cash, and prizes. They may not win a career, but hey, at least they score a new blender out of the deal.

Apparently, game shows have replaced networking as the most effective way to find a job. At least, that's what former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers is counting on. Unfortunately, a week after resigning from the doomed telecom in April, he received his rejection letter from CBS's Survivor. No word yet from ESPN's Beg, Borrow and Deal.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

SEC Investigates Schering-Plough

Scher ing -Plough's (NYSE: SGP) topsy-turvy trading last week drew the attention of more than just investors: It seems the Securities and Exchange Commission is interested enough in what happened to make a few inquiries. Before Schering shareholders panic, however, this is one SEC investigation that should have no effect on the stock price.

The problem arose when the stock began to plummet last week, falling over 15% from Tuesday through Thursday. This drop followed a meeting company executives had with at least one large shareholder, and meetings with other investors and analysts continued throughout the week, as well. Then, after the bell Thursday, the drug maker abruptly warned that its third-quarter and full-year earnings would be sharply lower than expected.

That's when the smaller investors began to yell. Did Schering tip the big guys about the warning ahead of time? According to The Wall Street Journal, a single five-million-share block was traded Tuesday afternoon, which is about what the stock normally trades during a full day. On top of that, volume was well above normal levels Tuesday through Thursday. Was that the result of some mutual funds or institutions selling?

If large shareholders and analysts were told before the warning was issued, it would, of course, be a violation of Regulation FD, the "fair disclosure" rule. The company denies any wrongdoing and says it "welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with the Commission in answering any questions, and believes that it has complied with all applicable securities laws in this matter."

It's doubtful that management intentionally violated the fair disclosure rule. The Journal says some of CEO Richard Kogan's comments to analysts during a private meeting on Thursday may have been misinterpreted, and the company therefore rushed to issue the earnings warning that evening.

At any rate, Schering's handling of this matter is sloppy, at best, and its actions do nothing to ease investor perception that the small guys are still always the last to know about trouble -- some two years after Reg FD was enacted.

Quote of Note

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." -- Mark Twain

Lockheed , Nathan's, EMC: Buying Back

Is the best defense a good buying offense? Lockheed Martin(NYSE: LMT) announced a 23-million share repurchase plan, that, if carried out, would consume 5% of the company's outstanding stock. With stocks testing multi-year lows, it's only natural for companies to put their idle cash where their shares are. But that's not Lockheed. Defense contractors have been strong performers over the past year, with Lockheed leading the way.

No, the more typical buybacks have been coming from the likes of Nathan's Famous(Nasdaq: NATH). The hot-dog specialist has gotten its buns kicked into penny stock territory, so last night's announcement of a modest million share repurchase makes sense. If no one's buying in, and the vault is flush with spare greenbacks from the good old days of taking swings at the stock-offering piñata, why not earmark some of that money to help support the stock?

Stuck data-storage bellwether EMC(NYSE: EMC) has $5.5 billion in cash, so even the massive 250-million stock buyback it announced last week won't dig too deeply into the petty cash till. However, investors need to approach these repurchases prudently. While it's typically a good sign to see the company investing in itself, let's restate the obvious: If a stock is in the dumps, why should we see management as a stock market visionary?

Want proof?

"The purchase program announced today reflects our belief that EMC common stock is currently an attractive investment opportunity for EMC," said the company's Executive Chairman Mike Ruettgers.

When did he say this? Back on May 9, 2001, when the company announced a 50-million share buyback. The stock closed at $40.98 that day and has given back 90% of its value since last year's repurchase announcement.

So, tread cautiously with the flurry of buyback press releases you're seeing lately. While it might be a prudent move for public companies to show a little faith and try to lead by example, just make sure you know what you're following.

Discussion Board of the Day: Lockheed Martin

Since last year's terrorist attacks and the military response that followed, Lockheed didn't really need to rally the troops behind a share buyback. With Iraq in the crosshairs, are investors justified in bidding up shares of Lockheed? Are there ethical issues involved in buying into defense contractor companies? All this and more -- in the Lockheed Martin discussion board. Only on

Have Plastic, Will Travel

There's cash, credit, debit card, and paper and e-checks. Now travelers have an alternative to the cost-prohibitive cash advances they get from using their credit card at the automatic teller machine.

Introducing the prepaid plastic money card that lets you get cash -- quick and cheap -- when you're on the road. MasterCard has a version of a prepaid card. And Visa offers TravelMoney (say it really fast, since there's no space between the two words) through Travelex/Interpayment. (Is everyone's space bar broken?)

Now the company has specifically targeted travelers by teaming with AAA to give its members a different way to pay. Starting Jan. 1, AAA members can use the CoGo card at any ATM that accepts Visa around the world. Just load it up with cash (there's a $3 fee if you put less than $300 on the card), pick a PIN, and then use it to get francs, bahts, euros, or whatever currency the locals use.

Like traveler's checks, you can get a replacement card when you lose it in the Congo. Unlike traveler's checks, the card is useless to even the best forgery artist -- the PIN is the only way to access the money.

What makes the CoGo card different from ATM cards? The only fee you pay is to the bank whose cash machine you use. It lets you avoid the fee your bank charges for cheating on it with a foreign ATM. We particularly like the debit-card nature of the product. With a prepaid card, you can only spend as much as you load onto the card.

Shameless Plug: Get More From Your Savings

You can't put all your money in the stock market. Sometimes you need a safe, guaranteed return. So what are your options? Our Short-Term Savings Center can help you figure out how much you need to save, where to put it, and where to get the best interest rates. There's even some special yields for Fools.

Quick Takes

Is it time to pull the plug on Allegheny Energy(NYSE: AYE)? The electricity provider has its own shortage to worry about now that it's in technical default of its principal credit agreements. When Moody's downgraded the company's credit rating last week, it had to add to its collateral. It hasn't. But before you assume the troubled Allegheny is down to running on fumes, it's in negotiations with creditors to diffuse the situation. Then again, AYE caramba -- maybe that isn't the best of signs!

Fizz is it! Pepsi(NYSE: PEP) shares shot up in carbonated glory today after the company topped earnings forecasts with a 12% spike in profits on a comparable basis. The salty snack leader and perennial second-place finisher in the cola wars is doing just fine. Sales inched 6.6% higher to $6.3 billion for the period. That may sound modest, but it's speed-demon territory for the usually snail-like food and beverage industries. Growing market share in its snack business and making steady inroads everywhere else, Pepsi is proving to be appetizing in this volatile market, even with its nasty Pepsi Blue launch.

Wince Charming. Retailer of plus-size clothing Charming Shoppes(Nasdaq: CHRS) has some plus-sized problems. The company is reporting negative same-store sales results and is looking to merely break even during the third quarter. That will knock down fiscal-year estimates to just $0.40 to $0.42 a share. Wall Street was banking on a $0.45 showing. Sorry, Prince Charming, the glass slipper just doesn't seem to fit right now.

The prognosis has been a little better at Option Care(Nasdaq: OPTN). The home infusion-therapy specialist is comfortable with full-year estimates. Trading at just 10 times its expected earnings of $0.72 a share, is there value to be had, even in companies living up to fiscal expectations? If Allegheny Energy weren't doing so badly, maybe we could ask them to shed some light on this intriguing valuation situation...

And Finally...

Today on Matt Richey examines stock picks if we go to war.... How many ESOs are too many? Tom Jacobs answers that question and examines the Rule Breaker's holdings.... In Fool's School, what is a company's payout ratio?... Our Community suggests hotel bargaining tips.... And the Post of the Day: a margin call for AMD.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim