14% of Americans Illiterate

A long-awaited federal study finds that an estimated 32 million adults in the USA — about one in seven — are saddled with such low literacy skills that it would be tough for them to read anything more challenging than a children’s picture book or to understand a medication’s side effects listed on a pill bottle. Though many communities are making strides to tackle the problem, it’s worsening elsewhere — in some cases significantly. Overall, the study finds, the nation hasn’t made a dent in its adult-literacy problem: From 1992 to 2003, it shows, the USA added about 23 million adults to its population; in that period, an estimated 3.6 million more joined the ranks of adults with low literacy skills. In Mississippi, the percentage of adults with low skills dropped 9 percentage points, from 25% to 16%. By contrast, in several large states — California, New York, Florida and Nevada, for instance — the number of adults with low skills rose.

Liberals Increasingly Frustrated With Obama

In recent weeks, President Obama has faced increasingly sharp criticism of his style and performance from an unlikely quarter: liberals. Liberal commentators from Saturday Night Live comedians to newspaper columnists to leftist bloggers to gay rights activists have been portraying Obama as a do-nothing president and “whiner-in-chief,” expressing a growing concern that the commander in chief is not showing enough spine. Critics on the left are growing impatient with Obama and pressuring him to reject a request from his chief military commander for more troops in Afghanistan, to include a government-run insurance option in his health insurance reform plan and to lift the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy concerning gays in the military.

Insurers Dropping Policies for Homes with Chinese Drywall

Thousands of homeowners nationwide who bought new houses constructed from the defective building materials are finding their hopes dashed, their lives in limbo. And experts warn that cases in which insurers drop policies or send notices of non-renewal based on the presence of Chinese drywall, will become rampant as insurance companies process the hundreds of claims currently in the pipeline. At least three insurers have already canceled or refused to renew policies after homeowners sought their help replacing the bad wallboard. Because mortgage companies require homeowners to insure their properties, they are then at risk of foreclosure, yet no law prevents the cancellations. A spokesman for Citizens Property Insurance, said claims were denied because the drywall is considered a builder defect, which is not covered under the policy. It also considers the drywall a pre-existing condition that could lead to future damage, which is why the company won’t renew the policy unless the problem is fixed.

Doctors Run TV Ads Pressing Congress on Medicare

The American Medical Association is launching a coast-to-coast TV ad campaign to press Congress to approve higher payments for doctors treating Medicare patients. The doctors group announced the ads Thursday, a day after Democrats agreed to push a $247 billion bill through the Senate next week averting scheduled cuts in physicians’ Medicare fees over the next decade. A 21% reduction is scheduled for January, with other cuts in subsequent years. The ad, which the AMA said would cost seven figures, says the bill will “protect seniors’ access to quality care” and urges people to contact their senators to tell them to vote for it. Restoring the money has long been a top priority for doctors’ lobbyists.

Catholic Bishops May Pull health Care Support

The nation’s Catholic bishops have threatened to pull their support for health care reform unless their concerns about abortion and access for immigrants are addressed by lawmakers. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supports universal access to health care as a “basic human right,” had been supportive of efforts to reform the health care system, but is concerned about taxpayer-funded abortions. Current law prohibits federal funding of abortions, and the White House has insisted abortion will not be covered in a final bill, but many conservatives warn that attempts to make that promise explicit in legislation have failed. Catholic officials are also concerned about failed attempts to insert language that would protect the consciences of medical providers who object to procedures like abortion, birth control, or fertility treatments.

Stimulus Kept or Created 30K Contracting Jobs

Contractors that split $16 billion in federal stimulus money created or saved 30,383 jobs, according to government reports published Thursday that for the first time tally the plan’s impact. The figure represents only a narrow slice, about 2%, of Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery plan. But it marks the first hard count of the jobs preserved by the spending plan. They are based on reports by about 5,200 companies hired directly by the federal government for work ranging from small park repairs to multibillion-dollar nuclear cleanups. The impact varied widely from state to state. The reports, released by the administration’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, identified almost 4,700 full-time jobs in Colorado, but fewer than six in Rhode Island, which had the nation’s third-worst unemployment rate in August. In Michigan, which had the nation’s highest unemployment rate, the contracts created or saved fewer than 400 full-time jobs. Obama has said the stimulus will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year, but measuring that impact has been difficult.

No Increase in Social Security

The Social Security Administration announced Thursday that 50 million Social Security beneficiaries won’t get a cost of living increase next year, marking the first time retirees have gone without a raise since 1975. Cost of living adjustments are pegged to the inflation rate between the third quarter and the year-ago quarter. This year, that rate was negative because of a sharp drop in energy costs. By law, Social Security benefits can’t decline. But because premiums for the Medicare drug program are expected to increase 11% next year, seniors who have those premiums deducted from their benefits will see a drop in payments.

President Obama’s plan to send $250 checks to more than 50 million Social Security recipients who won’t get cost-of-living adjustments in January is gathering support in Congress, but outside experts and budget watchdogs say the payments are unjustified. Obama’s proposal would include seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and retired railroad workers, bringing the total cost to between $13 billion and $14 billion. Experts on Social Security blasted the plan, both as a replacement for the COLA and as a way to stimulate the economy. Seniors don’t deserve the money without inflation, they said, and don’t need it as much as those laid off in the recession. Some lawmakers are questioning President Obama’s proposal since the bulk of the $787 billion stimulus package is still unspent.

Economic News

Industrial production rose by 0.7% in September for a third consecutive month, Federal Reserve data showed Friday, suggesting the economy closed out the third quarter with surprisingly strong growth. For the third quarter as a whole, output advanced at a 5.2% annual rate, the first quarterly gain since the first quarter of 2008 and the largest increase since the first quarter of 2005. The figures will likely reinforce the view that the longest recession since the Great Depression ended in the third quarter.

The number of workers filing new claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level since January, according to a government report on Thursday. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 514,000 the week ended Oct. 10. Even more encouraging, the number of people collecting long-term unemployment benefits dropped 75,000 to 5.99 million in the week ended Oct. 3. The decline, however, could be a sign that many jobless workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Arizona’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September. That surprised several economists because they expected it to keep climbing toward 10 percent. They say it could mean the state’s job market is at the bottom and heading toward a slow recovery.

A bad economy and low inflation are starting to drag down wages for millions of everyday workers. Average weekly wages have fallen 1.4% this year for private-sector workers through September, after adjusting for inflation, to $616.11. Colorado announced this week it will become the first state to lower its minimum wage. Weekly wages have tumbled largely because employees are working fewer hours — an average of 30 per week — than at anytime since the government began tracking the data in 1964.

Bank of America had its latest setback Friday, suffering a steep loss as increasing numbers of Americans defaulted on their credit cards and mortgages. The nation’s biggest bank lost $2.2 billion in the third quarter, after getting hit with a number of costs associated with the government’s move to rescue the firm over the past year. The Charlotte, N.C.-based lender said it paid $1.2 billion in dividends on its preferred shares, held primarily by the government. The company agreed to make quarterly payments in exchange for getting $45 billion in bailout money. Bank of America also paid $402 million during the quarter to exit an agreement it had struck with the government in January that was designed to shield the company from further losses.

  • The August Forecast notes: During 2008, we were told that port­fo­lios of sub-prime mort­gages were “toxic assets” that would send us to eco­nomic Hades in a hurry. Well, there are plenty of those toxic assets still on the books of banks around the world, but now the out­come is sup­posed to be different? It’s just like Alice in Wonderland. It’s turning out that the real tox­i­city is from stim­ulus money. It’s printed out of thin air, based on no credit cri­teria and tends to rapidly dete­ri­o­rate the dollar in value.

Middle East

The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Friday to endorse a Gaza war crimes report and send it to the Security Council, possibly setting up international prosecution of Israelis and Palestinians accused of war crimes. The council approved a Palestinian-backed resolution after two days of debate on the Goldstone report, which it had commissioned following the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict in which almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. The resolution passed 25-6, with mostly developing countries in favor and the United States and five European countries — Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine — opposing. Eleven mostly European and African countries abstained, while Britain, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote. Russia and China, two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, were among those voting yes.

U.S. officials in recent days expressed to the Palestinian Authority that President Obama’s administration is “disgusted” with Israel, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas told WorldNetDaily in an interview. Nimr Hamad said the White House was disgusted that Israel is refusing to halt all settlement activity as a precondition for re-starting talks with the PA over the creation of a Palestinian state. “Settlement activity” refers to Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem. The sources specified that as a confidence-building measure toward the PA, Israel will be asked by the Obama administration to hand over security control to territories designated in the 1993 Oslo Accords as Area B – referring to cities administered by the PA but largely controlled by Israeli security. The specific section of the Oslo Accords regarding control of Area B was finalized in 1995.

A Messianic Jewish leader and Israel supporter is outraged that an Obama website recently published an article comparing Israelis to Nazis. According to the Israeli news service Arutz Sheva (IsraelNationalNews.com), Organizing for America — the political arm of President Barack Obama — recently carried an entry on its website from ultra-left-wing professor Richard Falk. Falk, reportedly a supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, was once deported from Israel for statements he made comparing Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust. The Israeli news service says Organizing for America published an article by Falk which said: “Comparing the present-day Israel with Nazi Germany, one discovers that the majority of the Israeli policies are exact copies of the Nazi policies.” Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries, says it is an absolute outrage that a website with direct ties to the president would allow Falk’s comments to be printed.

  • The emerging one-world government is aligned against Israel in accord with Satan’s desire and influence

Peace in Nigeria

Nigeria‘s president says an amnesty granted to militants over the past two months in the oil-rich Niger Delta has restored peace to the region. The government says more than 8,000 militants have disarmed since it offered the amnesty in August. President Umaru Yar’Adua said late Wednesday that “agitations” are over and that development must take place in the region for peace to continue. Yar’Adua said there is now greater stabilization in the country’s oil market. Unrest in the Delta region had cut Nigeria’s oil production by about a million barrels a day. The Delta’s main militant group said it would not participate in the amnesty, but several top commanders and their men laid down their arms.

Pakistan

Teams of gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three law enforcement facilities in Pakistan‘s eastern city of Lahore and car bombs hit two other cities Thursday, killing a total of 39 people in an escalating wave of anti-government violence. The bloodshed, aimed at scuttling a planned offensive into the Taliban heartland near the Afghan border, highlights the Islamist militants’ ability to carry out sophisticated strikes on heavily fortified facilities and exposes the failure of the intelligence agencies to adequately infiltrate the extremist cells. A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb at a mosque next to a police station in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday, killing 11 people in the latest bloodshed in an unrelenting wave of terror that has hit the country.

The White House says President Barack Obama has signed a bill that gives $7 billion in aid to Pakistan over five years The aid package signed Thursday provides $1.5 billion annually for as a “tangible manifestation” economic and social programs as the Obama administration works to shore up Pakistan’s return to civilian rule and to encourage it in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

Afghanistan

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered hundreds more troops to Afghanistan on Wednesday, pledging to bolster the international effort on the condition that Britain’s allies also do their fair share to support the war effort. Brown did not immediately give a figure for the size of the increase when he spoke in the House of Commons, but he said Britain’s overall contribution would rise to 9,500 troops — an increase of about 500.

The U.S. military says four American service members have been killed in a bombing in southern Afghanistan. The latest deaths bring to 25 the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this month.

A fraud investigation of ballots in Afghanistan’s troubled election has reduced President Hamid Karzai’s portion of the vote to about 47 percent, an outcome that will trigger a runoff between him and his closest competitor, according to officials familiar with results.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rattled the Indonesian island of Java on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets of the capital city, Jakarta. The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.1 A mosque in Banten province, located on the western edge of Java, sustained significant damage, while other buildings including several houses, were slightly damaged.. There were no reports of any serious injuries. There were no immediate reports of damage and the quake was not strong enough to cause a tsunami. Indonesia is still recovering from another, more powerful earthquake that left more than 1,000 people dead in western Sumatra earlier this month.

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