Nation roundup for September 17


Job gap between rich, poor widens

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gap in employment rates between America’s highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago, according to an analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press.

Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families — those earning less than $20,000 — have topped 21 percent, nearly matching the rate for all workers during the 1930s Great Depression.

U.S. households with income of more than $150,000 a year have an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, a level traditionally defined as full employment. At the same time, middle-income workers are increasingly pushed into lower-wage jobs. Many of them in turn are displacing lower-skilled, low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work fewer hours, the analysis shows.

“This was no ‘equal opportunity’ recession or an ‘equal opportunity’ recovery,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. “One part of America is in depression, while another part is in full employment.”

The findings follow the government’s tepid jobs report this month that showed a steep decline in the share of Americans working or looking for work.

Why did officer kill unarmed man?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An unarmed man seeking help after a car crash over the weekend was shot 10 times by the Charlotte police officer who’s now charged in his death, investigators said Monday.

The release of the information supporting the voluntary manslaughter charge came at the end of a day that also included the first public remarks by victim Jonathan A. Ferrell’s family. A family attorney and representatives of the NAACP questioned whether race played a role in the shooting of the black man by a white officer.

Ferrell’s family said the former Florida A&M University football player moved to Charlotte about a year ago to be with his fiancee and was working two jobs. He wanted to go back to school and eventually become an automotive engineer.

“You took a piece of my heart that I can never put back,” said Ferrell’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, as she clutched a stuffed Winnie the Pooh doll her 24-year-old son loved as a child.

A police news release said Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 times at Ferrell early Saturday while responding to a breaking and entering call, hitting him 10 times.

Kerrick was scheduled for a first court appearance Tuesday on the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Homeless man’s honesty applauded

BOSTON (AP) — A homeless Boston man who police said turned in a backpack containing tens of thousands of dollars in cash and traveler’s checks said even if he were desperate he wouldn’t have kept “even a penny.”

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis honored Glen James on Monday, giving him a special citation and thanking him for an “extraordinary show of character and honesty.”

James said in a handwritten statement he gave out at a news conference that he was glad to make sure the bag and its contents were returned to the owner.

“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny,” he said.

James, who said he once worked as a Boston courthouse employee, found the backpack at the South Bay Mall in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood Saturday evening. He flagged down a police officer and handed it over. Inside the backpack was $2,400 in U.S. currency, almost $40,000 in traveler’s checks, Chinese passports and other personal papers.

The man who lost it told workers at a nearby Best Buy store at the mall and they called police. Officers then brought the backpack’s owner to a nearby police station and returned his property after confirming it belonged to him.

Authorities said that the backpack’s owner didn’t want his identity made public, but that he was a Chinese student who was visiting another student in Boston. James said he has been homeless since 2005.

Biden urges fixes to nation’s ports

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden implored Americans on Monday to find the resources to invest in its ports, warning that the U.S. will fall behind its competitors unless it spends now to bolster its infrastructure.

Addressing a crowd of about 300 on a wind-swept dock in Charleston, S.C., Biden said the U.S. is behind the rest of the world. He cast infrastructure projects as key to a broader strategy of growing the middle class, calling them a big win not just for local communities, but the entire nation.

“Every time we invest in infrastructure as Democrats or as Republicans — every time we have done it — the economy grows and it grows good, decent-paying jobs,” Biden said.

The Charleston swing by Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was the latest stop in an ongoing effort by the vice president to shine a light on the nation’s ailing roads, bridges and ports in hopes of encouraging more investment despite opposition by many Republicans to more government spending.

The two visited the Port of Baltimore last week, and after visiting Charleston on Monday, Biden headed to Savannah, Ga., whose port is a keen rival with South Carolina.

Before speaking on the Charleston docks, Biden and Foxx met with officials at the South Carolina State Port Authority’s Wando Terminal in nearby Mount Pleasant. They chatted for a time with longshoremen who took a break from loading three massive container ships that were at the docks.

Charleston is working on a harbor deepening project expected to cost more than $300 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the project, but Biden said he already knew what that study would likely conclude.

“We’d better deepen it to 50 feet,” Biden said. “Otherwise, guess what? We’re going to be left behind, because other ports are going ahead and doing it.”

Like other East Coast ports, Savannah and Charleston are scrambling for federal permits and funding to deepen their shipping channels to make room for supersized cargo ships expected after the Panama Canal finishes a major expansion in 2015. On the East Coast, only the ports of New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., have water deepen enough to accommodate the massive ships with full loads and at lower tides.

In Georgia, Biden gave one of the strongest endorsements yet for the $652 million proposal to deepen the Savannah harbor, telling about 500 port workers and invited dignitaries at the dock: “We are going to get this done, as my grandfather would say, come hell or high water.”

Georgia officials have been working to deepen the 30-mile Savannah River shipping channel for 17 years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave its final approval a year ago. Biden’s support comes as Georgia port officials wait for Congress to lift a spending cap placed on the project in 1999 that’s now almost $200 million short of the latest estimate. Then it’s up to Congress and the president to fund 70 percent of the cost.

The South Carolina project is awaiting a final recommendation from the Corps that is expected in 2015, said Brig. Gen. Ed Jackson, who commands the South Atlantic Region of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But a favorable recommendation would still require Congress to earmark money for the project.

The vice president’s visits gave port officials in Georgia and South Carolina a chance to cite White House support for what are considered top economic development projects in both states.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve got the full backing of the administration to get this project going forward as quickly as it possibly can,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Biden, who is contemplating a third run for president in 2016, joked about potential employment opportunities as he donned a baseball provided by the Savannah port.

“In case you were wondering, it says Georgia Ports Authority,” Biden said. “I may be needing a job.”

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Bynum reported from Savannah. Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

 

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