SPOTLIGHT BRIEFS

Poorest poor in US hits new record: 1 in 15 people

Posted Nov. 03, 2011, at 9:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The ranks of America’s poorest poor have climbed to a record high — 1 in 15 people — spread widely across metropolitan areas as the housing bust pushed many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.

New census data paint a stark portrait of the nation’s haves and have-nots at a time when unemployment remains persistently high. It comes a week before the government releases first-ever economic data that will show more Hispanics, elderly and working-age poor have fallen into poverty.

About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level. Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.

That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records, surpassing previous highs in 2009 and 1993 of just over 6 percent.

Broken down by states, 40 states and the District of Columbia had increases in the poorest poor since 2007, and none saw decreases. The District of Columbia ranked highest at 10.7 percent, followed by Mississippi and New Mexico. Nevada had the biggest jump, rising from 4.6 percent to 7 percent.

Plumber discovers $20,000 inside home

MANATEE, Fla — In his 50-year career as a plumber, Jerry Laliberte has found all kinds of things in walls and under floors: screwdrivers, flashlights, dead rats and squirrels, to name a few.

But on Oct. 20, Laliberte discovered something most of us will never have a chance to touch: $20,000 in $50 and $100 bills and travelers checks.

Two aluminum foil-wrapped packages tumbled out of an air return duct at a house he was servicing.

“I thought it was drugs at first,” said Laliberte, 62, a plumbing technician for Air & Energy air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical service on Holmes Beach.

Laliberte had been called to the empty house to stop a water leak underneath a second-floor shower floor. He was alone when he found the money, but didn’t think twice about calling his bosses and informing them of his find.

“I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if I had kept any of it,” said Laliberte, who has two daughters, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

The owners had inherited the house from a relative who had made it clear in her will that cash was stashed throughout the house, said Trudy Moon, co-owner of Air & Energy.

Police have asked Air & Energy not to identify the address, or even the town, in which the cash was located to protect the owners from potential harassment.

Asteroid YU55 will swing nearer to Earth than the moon

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, the asteroid known as YU55 will come closer to Earth than any other asteroid has come since 1976.

Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Los Angeles area say YU55 will come within 201,700 miles of Earth. That’s nearer than we are to the moon, but far enough away to eliminate the possibility of a collision.

Asteroids are space rocks — debris created when the solar system was formed. YU55 is a moderate-size asteroid — about 1,300 feet wide, or about the width of four football fields stretched end to end. Radar images taken in 2010 by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico revealed that it appears to be spherical in shape and rotates in about 18 hours.

In the future, scientists say, asteroids may serve as watering holes and fueling stations for interplanetary travel.

Sectarian violence kills dozens in Syria

BEIRUT — Spiraling sectarian violence killed dozens of people Thursday in the troubled Syrian city of Homs, casting into doubt prospects that an Arab League peace plan would succeed in tamping down an escalating conflict between pro- and anti-government forces.

Residents and activists described a city descending into war as gunmen on both sides of the divide swarmed into each other’s neighborhoods, abducting and shooting civilians and heralding a worrying twist to the nearly eight-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Many of those killed belonged to Assad’s minority Alawite sect, which dominates most of the senior positions in the security forces, according to Homs residents and activists.

There were also reports that members of the majority Sunni sect had been shot down in retaliatory killings by pro-government gunmen circulating in vehicles in Sunni neighborhoods and opening fire at random on civilians.

Confirming the number of deaths was impossible because Syria restricts access to foreign journalists. One of the clauses in the Arab League plan, which Syria endorsed Wednesday, calls for journalists and human rights monitors to be granted unfettered access to the country.

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