Segregation of blacks at record low, think tank report says

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Segregation of African Americans in the United States has declined to its lowest point in more than a century, but social and income disparities persist, according to a Manhattan Institute report released Monday.

The report, coming days before the nation prepares to observe Black History Month, tracks how housing has changed over time. It was written by two fellows of the conservative think tank: Harvard University economics professor Edward Glaeser and Duke University professor Jacob Vigdor.

The research looked at every census since 1890 and found a range of factors -- such as changes in law, better access to credit, blacks' movement into formerly white suburbs and even some gentrification of formerly all-black ghettos -- that have played a role in the decline of segregation.

But that decline hasn’t brought the kind of opportunities and social healing that once seemed implicit, particularly in the 1960s civil rights movement. “The 1960s were the heyday of racial segregation,” the pair say in their report.

“During those years, segregation seemed a likely cause of many of the troubles afflicting African Americans. Segregation was so enormous, and so unfair, that it seemed to create a separate and unequal experience for African Americans everywhere. During those years, the fight against housing segregation seemed to offer the possibility that once the races mixed more readily, all would be well.

“Forty years later, we know that this dream was a myth. There is every reason to relish the fact that there is more freedom in housing today than 50 years ago and to applaud those who fought to create that change. Yet we now know that eliminating segregation was not a magic bullet.”

“The difficult lesson of these decades is that society is complicated and single solutions rarely solve everything,” the authors write. “While the decline in segregation remains good news, far too many Americans still lack the opportunity to achieve meaningful success.”

While there has been improvement for African Americans on many fronts, the most recent census also paints a picture of how much further there is to go. For example, the annual media income of black households in 2010 was $32,068, a decline of 3.2% from 2009. More than one in four African American households, or 27.4%, remained below the poverty level.

Anyone who has studied the history of the 20th century recognizes how much more integrated American culture has become, whether on television, in newspapers or just everyday life. One such measure is voting participation.

The share of eligible blacks who voted in the 2010 congressional election increased to 12%, compared with 11% in 2006. On the presidential level, the successful bid by Barack Obama to become the first African American elected to the White House energized voters of all groups, but especially blacks. The turnout of African Americans of all ages was up about five percentage points.

About four out of five, or 82%, of African Americans 25 and older had a high school diploma in 2010, while just 18% had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Education is often a way of measuring upward mobility, since more education translates into better jobs.

Although not all-embracing, housing statistics do indicate some trends.

“The most standard segregation measure shows that American cities are now more integrated than they’ve been since 1910,” the academics write in their findings. “Segregation rose dramatically with black migration to cities in the mid-twentieth century. On average, this rise has been entirely erased by integration since the 1960s.

“All-white neighborhoods are effectively extinct,” they stated. “A half-century ago, one-fifth of America’s urban neighborhoods had exactly zero black residents. Today, African American residents can be found in 199 out of every 200 neighborhoods nationwide. The remaining neighborhoods are mostly in remote rural areas or in cities with very little black population.”

In part, segregation was changed by government and courts eliminating, for example, restrictive covenants that prevented African Americans from moving into certain neighborhoods. Looser credit, fostered by government policies, some of which have been under attack during the current economic downturn, made it easier for lower-income African Americans to get mortgages.

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Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a 1965 protest march in Boston against slum housing conditions and racial segregation of the schools. Credit: Bettmann / Corbis


Hunger and homelessness on the rise in U.S cities, mayors report

 

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Hunger and homelessness are on the rise as governments struggling to balance their budgets are cutting spending on social services, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported Thursday.

A survey of 29 cities by the organization of municipal chiefs found that 25 of the cities, or 86%, had seen an increase in requests for emergency food aid in the past year. Overall, the number of requests for such assistance increased an average of 15.5%, the report said.

Of the people seeking food assistance, 51% were families. Unemployment led the list of factors cited for the growing need for aid, but 26% of those requesting aid were employed.

Homelessness in the cities surveyed rose 6% overall, the survey found, with 42% of the cities reporting an increase in homelessness and 38% reporting a decrease.

Thursday’s grim report by the mayors’ group confirms findings released by the Census Bureau in its September report on poverty in America.

The Census Bureau found that the proportion of the population officially considered to be in poverty rose to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009, marking the third consecutive annual increase. Those whose earnings put them above the official poverty line but earned less than double that threshold increased to about one in three Americans. Combining the poor and the almost-poor, the number of low- income Americans approaches half of the country's population, according to the Census.  

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Photo: People walking past a homeless person in Washington in 1994. Credit: Mark Wilson / Associated Press


Texas mother who killed children caught with gun a year ago

A mother who shot her two children before killing herself in a south Texas welfare office last week had a gun while staying on a beach just south of Corpus Christi last year, according to a police report released Wednesday.

Rachelle Grimmer's children, ages 12 and 10, died days after her Dec. 5 standoff with authorities at a Texas Department of Health and Human Services building in the border town of Laredo, where her application for food stamps had been denied. State officials have said the application was rejected because Grimmer, 38, failed to submit proof of income.

Grimmer had food stamps and a New York driver's license last year when she was stopped with her children on a Gulf beach in coastal Kleberg County. At the time, Grimmer said her family was staying on the beach "as a learning experience," although she admitted the children were bathing at a local gas station, according to a September 2010 report filed by a Kleberg County sheriff's deputy and obtained by the Associated Press.

"I asked her why she had the weapon, Grimmer told me that she carried [it] for protection while traveling," Kleberg County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Wright wrote in the report. "The weapon was returned to her. Ms. Grimmer told me that they would be fine because they were just on vacation."

The report described Grimmer as edgy and paranoid. She apparently wasn't convinced the deputy was a law enforcement officer despite his uniform and became "abusive" when asked to show her driver's license, according to the report.

Later that day, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sent an investigator to interview Grimmer but ultimately did not intervene or remove the children from her care, the Associated Press reported.

Patrick Crimmins, an agency spokesman, told the AP on Wednesday that the investigator had verified that Grimmer had $700 in Ohio food stamps and claimed to be receiving more than $500 a month in child support.

"There are no concerns noted about the children in our documentation," Crimmins said. "They were fully clothed. Law enforcement documented they were registered for home-schooling through Ingleside [School District]. The family appeared to have adequate food."

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Indictment alleges lavish spending by Georgia charity founders

A federal indictment alleges that the founders of Georgia-based food program Angel Food Ministries engaged in fraud and other crimes
The Georgia charity known as Angel Food Ministries was created with the intention of buying food in bulk and distributing it at a low cost to the poor and the hungry.

And that it did, distributing its boxes to millions of struggling Americans in 45 states until its founders, Joe and Linda Wingo, shut down in September, citing the poor economy and rising costs.

But as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, the charity, based in the northeast Georgia city of Monroe, was also the subject of a federal investigation. Details of a new federal indictment allege that the Wingos used the charity to enrich themselves, purchasing jewelry, clothes and a $65,000 classic car and making a $280,000 down payment on a Beechjet 400A airplane.

The 49-count indictment was filed Tuesday against the Wingos, who went by the names "Pastor Joe" and "Pastor Linda," as well as their son, Andrew Wingo, and an Angel Food employee, the Associated Press reported. The charges include fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

The criminal charges appear to have been sparked by a lawsuit filed by two members of Angel Food's board of directors, according to the Journal-Constitution.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that the Wingos reaped more than $1.48 million by granting themselves and others lavish bonuses. They allege Joe Wingo spent $5,000 at a spa and $5,400 on jewelry at Macy's. Linda Wingo allegedly bought clothes and home appliances worth more than $15,000.

The indictment alleges that the Wingos tried to hinder an FBI investigation, asking employees not to reveal information and requesting that one of them destroy a hard drive. It also alleges that Andy Wingo and the employee, Harry Michaels, insisted that vendors pay kickbacks in order to do business with the charity. Joe Wingo allegedly paid bonuses to employees, reimbursing them for contributions he told them to make to a politician's campaign.

Edward Tolley, an Athens, Ga., attorney representing Linda Wingo, told the Journal-Constitution that the Wingos believed they would be "vindicated." The paper was unable to obtain comments from other indicted individuals or their lawyers.

The four are expected to appear in court next week and enter not guilty pleas.

In March 2008, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives singled out Angel Food as an example of "effective models for Federal collaboration with faith-based and community organizations."

The office praised Angel Food's track record of feeding nearly 2.5 million people per month.

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Photo: The offices of Angel Food Ministries in March 2009. Credit: John Bazemore / Associated Press


White House Christmas tree -- or is it 'Holiday' tree? -- arrives

A chain email reportedly has popped up that the White House will take the "Christmas" out of "Christmas tree" -- and that the 19-foot balsam fir delivered Friday morning will be referred to as a "holiday" tree.

The email, which first appeared in 2009, is false.  Still, it's another thorn in the side of a president who has long been dogged with questions about his faith and who, on Thursday, ruffled feathers when he failed to mention God in his Thanksgiving radio address.

The email says, in part, "We have a friend at church" who received a "letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees."

PHOTOS: First ladies and their trees

In 2009, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said the "letter referenced in the email does not exist," and "the trees in the White House will be called Christmas trees, and the tree on the Ellipse will be called the National Christmas tree."

After Obama took office, he kept the subject of religion almost entirely private. But in August 2010, a national poll found that 1 in 5 Americans believed Obama was Muslim. About that time, he weighed in forcefully for a Muslim group's right to build a mosque and community center near the World Trade Center site.

In September 2010, speaking to a group in Albuquerque, he broke his relative silence on the subject, saying he was a "Christian by choice" and that the "precepts of Jesus Christ spoke" to him in terms of the kind of life he wanted to lead.

Obama's failure to mention God on Thursday, however, while he was thanking soup-kitchen volunteers and the U.S. military, caused some outcry, as evidenced by remarks on Twitter.

Nevertheless, the White House Christmas traditions continue apace, with First Lady Michelle Obama inspecting the holiday -- make that, Christmas -- tree at the White House on Friday morning.

Every year since 1961, the first lady has chosen a theme for White House Christmas decorations. That year, Jacqueline Kennedy chose a "Nutcracker Suite" theme.  Last year, the first lady chose "Simple Gifts." The theme this year will be decorations honoring the military group Blue Star Families.

On Wednesday, Michelle Obama will host Gold Star and Blue Star families at the White House for the first public viewing of the White House Christmas display.

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Americans are living longer but facing new social, economic woes

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The number of Americans at least 90 years old has tripled in recent decades, according to a government analysis released Thursday, a major shift in population that has implications for social policy, especially regarding housing and healthcare.

The population of people in that age group has grown since the 1980 census to 1.9 million, according to the report released by the Census Bureau and supported by the National Institute on Aging. Further, it could quadruple in the next four decades, the report notes.

That means that, by mid-century, 20% of the total population of the United States will be a person at least 65 and one in 10 of those people will be at least 90.

Individuals within this aging population will likely have at least one disability, will live alone or will live in a nursing home. They're also more likely to be female, because women live longer than men, and will likely be significantly poor.

People are living longer for a variety of reasons -- with better and more available medical care and improved nutrition topping the list. Those improvements prompted the new look at the elderly.

“Traditionally, the cutoff age for what is considered the ‘oldest old’ has been age 85,” stated Census Bureau demographer Wan He, one of the authors, along with Mark Muenchrath, of the report titled “90+ in the United States, 2006-2008.”

“But increasingly people are living longer and the older population itself is getting older. Given its rapid growth, the 90-and-older population merits a closer look,” she said in a prepared statement. “The implications for the family and our society of this growing population are likely to be significant,” the authors stated.

As the population lives longer, its need for services grows. Getting that help, however, could be a problem for an increasingly poor population, especially in tough economic times with the government reconsidering entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

A congressional committee is now wrestling with those issues, and the outcome of its deliberations is sure to be a factor in the partisan politics of the 2012 election cycle.

The demographic numbers paint a grim picture.

For example, an older person’s likelihood of living in a nursing facility increases with age. Only 1% of people in their upper 60s and 3% in their upper 70s were in nursing homes, but that percentage rises to 20% for those in their lower 90s, to more than 30% for those in their upper 90s, and to nearly 40% for those older than 100, according to the report.

Nearly all of those older than 90 and who lived in a nursing home had some disability. But four out of five of those who lived outside a nursing home also had at least one disability, meaning they needed help doing errands and sometimes even just moving around -- presenting other financial problems for families and governments.

The proportion of people age 90 to 94 with disabilities is more than 13 percentage points higher than for those in the 85-to 89-year-old bracket.

Poverty becomes increasingly more likely as a person ages, according to the report. During the 2006 to 2008 time period, 14.5% of people 90 and older lived in poverty, significantly more than the 9.6% of those 65 to 89 who were officially poor.

The annual median personal income for people 90 and older during the period 2006-2008 was $14,760, as measured in inflation adjusted dollars. Almost half of that income -- 47.9% -- came from Social Security, and 18.3% came from retirement pension income. All in all, 92.3% of those 90 and older received income from the Social Security Administration.

Those living longer were overwhelmingly white, 88.1%, according to the report. African Americans represented 7.6%; Asians 2.2% and Latinos, who can be either black or white, about 4%.

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Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times


Was gunman trying to shoot President Obama?

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Ballistic glass may have halted a bullet from piercing a White House window, but Tuesday's discovery of the resulting damage raises unsettling questions about whether a gunman was aiming to harm President Obama.

The president was never in any danger, reports our sister blog, Politics Now, because he and the first lady were in California at the time, attending the Carrier Classic basketball game in Coronado. And the bullet could have been an errant one fired Friday in a shooting near the Washington Monument.

The Secret Service, which has the job of protecting the president, is investigating the incident and did not return phone calls seeking details by the time this story was posted. But this much is known:

A bullet hit a window of the White House but was stopped by the ballistic glass. That bullet and an additional round of ammunition were found Tuesday morning outside the building. Photos taken Wednesday, like the one above, show authorities examining windows on the South Portico of the White House, which faces the Washington Monument.

The Tuesday discovery of the bullets followed reports of gunfire near the Washington Monument on Friday night. Witnesses reportedly heard shots and saw vehicles in the area. An assault rifle was  recovered as part of that investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities have previously said that the White House did not appear to have been targeted in the Friday incident.

An arrest warrant has been issued in that earlier shooting for a man identified as Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21. He's believed to be living in the Washington area, has ties to Idaho and has an arrest record in three states, U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said.

In the wake of that Friday night shooting, authorities found an abandoned car containing items that led law enforcement officials to Ortega-Hernandez.

Arlington, Va., Police Lt. Joe Kantor said Ortega-Hernandez was stopped Friday morning after a report of someone "circling the area," but authorities had no reason to detain him at that time. They say Ortega-Hernandez sports several tattoos, including one with the word "Israel" on the left side of his neck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Photo: Law enforcement personnel investigate where a bullet hit a window on the south side of the White House. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images


Occupy Wall Street: New York police evict demonstrators

Police gather early Tuesday to order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Zuccotti Park.

New York City police moved in on Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, ordering Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been encamped in Lower Manhattan since Sept. 17 to leave or risk arrest.

About 1 a.m., police handed out notices from the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous, the Associated Press reported.

Paul Browne, a police spokesman, said most people began leaving when they received the notices; one person was arrested for disorderly conduct.

PHOTOS: Police clear out Zuccotti Park

Rabbi Chaim Gruber, an Occupy Wall Street member, said police officers were clearing the streets near the park.

“The police are forming a human shield and are pushing everyone away,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The New York Daily News said hundreds of police were at the scene.

"I don't want to leave," protester Ben Swenson, 25, said, according to the Daily News. "It's about social justice, equality, even rights."

Protesters were told they could return but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents.

The protesters' website streamed live video as the raid unfolded. The website also urged people to “get to the park immediately for eviction defense.” Demonstrators shouted “We love our country” and “You don’t have to do this.”

The eviction came as Occupy Wall Street unveiled a call to “shut down Wall Street” on Thursday morning, and to occupy the city’s subways that afternoon.

Brookfield Office Properties and the city came close to removing the demonstrators on Oct. 14, but backed off.

Occupy Wall Street has sparked similar encampments in cities across the nation, including a tent city on the grounds of Los Angeles City Hall. Residents of the Los Angeles encampment were heard banging drums as midnight approached.

The leaderless movement has complained about a range of issues, including Wall Street practices and student loan indebtedness.

Some cities have taken a more aggressive posture to stem the protests in recent days. Riot police evicted demonstrators Sunday in Portland, Ore., while demonstrators have been arrested in Oakland; Albany, N.Y.; Salt Lake City; and Denver.

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Photo: New York City police gather early Tuesday to order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, their longtime encampment. Credit: Karly Domb Sadof / Associated Press


Homeless veterans more likely to stay homeless, new survey finds

Homeless veterans
Veterans who become homeless tend to stay homeless for longer periods than nonveterans, according to a new national survey by a nonprofit advocacy group. They’re also more likely to suffer from serious health conditions leading to death.

The survey of 23,000 homeless people was released Tuesday by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a nonprofit coalition of local community groups combating homelessness. The survey found that, although veterans make up 9% of the country’s population, they accounted for more than 15% of the homeless people surveyed.

“We’ve known that veterans were particularly at risk to become homeless, but now we know that they’re more likely to stay homeless and face life-threatening conditions on the street,” the campaign’s director, Becky Kanis, said in a statement. “The data paint a picture of an extremely at-risk population that is unlikely to get off the streets without targeted help."

Among the other findings:

-Veterans reported being homeless an average of 5.7 years, compared with 3.9 years reported by nonveterans.

-More than 6 out of 10 veterans reported being homeless more than two years, versus half of nonveterans.

-Among the 12,500 people who said they had been homeless for more than two years, veterans averaged nine years, compared with 7.3 years for nonveterans.

-Of those, 3 out of 4 veterans reported a substance abuse habit, and nearly two-thirds reported a serious physical health condition.

-55% of homeless veterans reported health conditions linked to heightened mortality risk, versus 44% of nonveterans.

-21% of veterans surveyed were at least 60 years old, compared with 9% for nonveterans. The report said age did not entirely explain why veterans stayed homeless for longer periods.

-Homeless veterans were 11% more likely than nonveterans to suffer from a life-threatening condition, including liver or kidney disease, or frequent frostbite.

-Among veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 27% reported traumatic brain injuries, compared with 19% of other veterans. The signature insurgent weapon in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been roadside bombs, which typically cause traumatic brain injuries in addition to loss of limbs among service members who survive the explosions.

-46% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans surveyed reported receiving mental health treatment, versus 41%  for other veterans. The Pentagon has become more attuned in recent years to the need for mental health treatment and counseling for service members returning from combat.

The organization said its survey is the first to be based on face-to-face interviews with homeless veterans across the country. It was conducted by 2,500 trained volunteers in 47 communities.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign has set a goal of securing housing for 100,000 homeless people by July2013. It says it has found permanent homes for 11,244 people as of this week. The group works with the VA and community agencies in Los Angeles and New York to speed up the process of finding housing for the homeless.

The new survey mirrored a profile of homeless veterans provided in an annual report by two government agencies issued late last month. That report, by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, put the number of homeless veterans at 144,000 in 2010.

The federal report found that veterans under 30 were twice as likely to become homeless as nonveterans of the same age. Veterans made up 13% of homeless adults in shelters, according to the government survey.

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Photo: Homeless U.S. military veterans stand in line to receive free services at a "Stand Down" event hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Nov. 3 in Denver. A week ahead of Veterans Day, more than 500 homeless veterans were expected to attend the event, where they received free medical care, winter clothing, employment assistance and were able to see a judge to resolve legal issues, among other services.  Credit: John Moore / Getty Images


Portrait of U.S. poverty is changing; workers, Latinos hit hard

Poor
As demonstrations against the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States ratchet up, research provides a statistical look at that distribution: The number of people living in poverty has increased; where the poor live is changing; and even the faces of those struggling to make ends meet are becoming more Latino, elderly and working-class.

Small wonder that the economy remains the top presidential election issue.

Roughly a week before the Census Bureau releases the latest portrait of the nation based on economic data, new reports -- last month from the government and Thursday from the Brookings Institution -- give a dire glimpse of what can be expected. The number of people living in poverty is growing, encompassing all segments of society except for the very rich, the reports say. Further, poverty is  spreading out of traditional areas.

“The slower economic growth of the 2000s, followed by the worst downturn in decades, led to increases in neighborhoods of extreme poverty once again throughout the nation, particularly in suburban and small metropolitan communities and in the Midwest,” according to the Brookings report, prepared by Elizabeth Kneebone, Carey Nadeau and Alan Berube.

The report is an analysis based on the most recent census data which found that the population of poor people grew by 12.3 million in the last decade, increasing the number of Americans in poverty to an all-time high of 46.2 million. By the end of the decade, a record 15.3% of Americans lived below the poverty line, $22,314 for a family of four in 2010.

Even though poverty is at record deep levels, the distribution was far from equal either in geography, income or ethnicity.

A struggling manufacturing economy helped contribute to a near-doubling of concentrated poverty in traditional Rust Belt areas around the Great Lakes, such as Detroit, and Toledo, Youngstown and Dayton, Ohio. Meanwhile, concentrated poverty areas increased by about a third in Southern metro areas including El Paso; Baton Rouge, La.; and Jackson, Miss.

The proportion of poor people in large metropolitan areas who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods jumped from 11.2% in 2000 to 15.1% last year, according to Brookings, a nonprofit public policy think tank. The biggest growth in high-poverty areas is occurring in newer Sun Belt metro areas such as Las Vegas and parts of Florida, hit hard by collapsing home prices and rising unemployment.

Almost half of those living below the poverty line, or about 20.5 million Americans (6.7% of the total U.S. population), were classified as the poorest of the poor, living at less than 50% of the poverty line. In 2010, that meant an individual income of $5,570 or less. That 6.7% figure was the highest level in the 35 years such records have been kept, according to the Census Bureau.

The faces of the poor are also expected to change when the new census data are released next week. The new data will include details on who receives non-cash help, such as food stamps, and it will take into account typical spending on such things as healthcare and commuting rather than just taxable income.

That means that larger numbers of the elderly, who pay more for medical costs even if they have insurance, will likely be among the poor. Further, more working-class people will find themselves categorized as poor because expenses such as baby-sitting and commuting will now be added to the computations.

Those changes will also likely push Latinos into the lead as the poorest ethnic group, because many new immigrants are reluctant or unable to apply for government benefits that help those who are U.S. citizens living in poverty.

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Photo: A man walks down a street in Reading, Pa., last month,  collecting cans.  Reading, a city that once boasted numerous industries and the nation's largest railroad company, has recently been named America's poorest city over 65,000 population. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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