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Tags: Iran | Denies | Persecuting | Christians | Homeownership Hits 21-Year Low | US Polio Outbreak Feared | Poll Govt Workers Should Pay More for Retirement

Iran Denies Persecuting Christians; Homeownership Hits 21-Year Low; US Polio Outbreak Feared

By    |   Sunday, 01 March 2015 07:35 PM EST

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. U.S. Homeownership Rate Hits 21-Year Low
2. Poll: Govt Workers Should Pay More for Retirement
3. Millennials Will Outnumber Baby Boomers This Year
4. Ayatollah Denies Persecution of Christians in Iran
5. Doctor: Polio Could Reappear in U.S.
6. Half of D.C. Residents Attend Church 'Seldom or Never'

1. U.S. Homeownership Rate Hits 21-Year Low

The homeownership rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level in more than two decades, giving the rental market a boost.

The homeownership rate is the percentage of households that own the home they live in. According to new figures from the Census Bureau, the rate was 64 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, down from 64.4 percent the previous quarter.

That is the lowest rate since the second quarter of 1994, when it stood at 63.8 percent.

The rate peaked at 69.2 percent at the end of 2004, according to Census statistics compiled since 1968.

Rising prices and a tight supply of lower-end offerings have put homes out of reach for some entry-level buyers, who have also been held back by stringent mortgage standards following the housing bubble and slow wage growth, Bloomberg reported.

"The improving economy helps, though affordability is a growing challenge," Jed Kolko, chief economist for San Francisco-based Trulia Inc., told Bloomberg.

The rental market has benefited from the drop in homeownership. The vacancy rate for rentals in the country fell to 7 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 8.2 percent a year earlier and the lowest rate since 1993, according to the Census Bureau.

The homeownership rate is far higher than the national average for non-Hispanic whites, 72.3 percent, compared to 44.5 percent for Hispanics and 42.1 for blacks.

Among the states, New York had the lowest homeownership rate in the last quarter, 53.1 percent, followed closely by California at 53.2 percent, and Nevada (56.8 percent). But the District of Columbia's rate is lower than any state's, 41.2 percent.

The highest rate is in West Virginia (77.5 percent), followed by Delaware (74.3 percent) and Vermont (73.2 percent).

Among the 75 largest American metropolitan areas, Los Angeles is the only metro with less than a 50 percent rate, 47.6 percent, although New York is barely above 50 percent at 50.2 percent.

The highest rate is in Richmond, Va., 75.5 percent.

Editor's Note:


2. Poll: Govt Workers Should Pay More for Their Retirement

A national telephone survey reveals that 72 percent of Americans are concerned that their state and local governments may not be able to afford the pensions that have been promised to their workers.

The figure includes 39 percent who are "very concerned," the Reason-Rupe Pension Poll found.

With those worries in mind, 82 percent of respondents believe that current public employees should be required to contribute more toward their future pensions and benefits if government is facing a shortfall.

A majority of Americans, 52 percent, say public employees receive better retirement benefits than those in the private sector, while 19 say worse benefits and 24 percent say the same.

Nearly half say public employees are paying about their fair share toward retirement costs, but 31 percent say they are paying less than their fair share and just 14 percent say they are paying more than that. The rest "don't know" or refused to answer.

A slight majority, 53 percent, think public workers should contribute at least 50 percent of the cost of their retirement benefits, and 58 percent favor a cap on the maximum amount of pension payments a retired public employee can receive.

Total unfunded state pension plans are estimated to top $4 trillion, several studies show, a figure that does not include promised medical benefits for retirees.

Launched in 2011, the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project is conducted by the Reason Foundation and supported by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

Other findings of the Reason-Rupe Poll include:

  • 54 percent of Americans think pensions should be based on salary alone, while 42 percent believe retirees should be able to increase their pension by counting unused sick time, vacation time, and specialty pay.
  • 78 percent say the public should get to vote on increases to public employees' pensions and benefits.
  • 59 percent favor shifting current public employees from guaranteed pensions to 401(k)-style accounts, and 67 percent favor shifting future public employees to 401(k)-style plans.
  • Three-quarters of Americans are concerned that their state or local government will raise taxes in order to pay for public employee pension obligations in the future, including 42 percent who are very concerned.
  • Asked to cite the reason why many public employee pension plans are underfunded, the largest percentage, 46 percent, said employees' failure to contribute enough is the major reason, and 34 percent said it is a minor reason, while 44 percent said a major reason is that retirees' benefits are too high.

It should be noted that survey respondents included 17 percent who are employed by local, state, or the federal government, 36 percent of retirees polled were public employees at some point in their career, and only 5 percent said they have a "strongly unfavorable" opinion of public employees.

Editor's Note:


3. Millennials Will Outnumber Baby Boomers This Year

The "Millennial" generation is expected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the country's largest living generation this year, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Millennials are ages 18 to 34 this year, as defined by the Pew Research Center. The oldest was born in 1981 and the youngest in 1997. They are so called because they were originally defined as beginning in 1982, so the oldest would have turned 18 in 2000, the millennial year.

They are projected to number 75.3 million this year, up from 74.8 million last year, an increase due in large part to the many immigrants to the U.S. who are in this age bracket. They are projected to peak at 81.1 million in 2036.

Baby boomers — ages 51 to 69 — peaked at 78.8 million in 1999 and numbered 75.4 million last year, but this year they are projected to drop to 74.9 million, with deaths exceeding the number of immigrants in this age bracket, according to Pew.

Generation X — ages 35 to 50 this year — is projected to number around 66 million this year.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center for Health Statistics, 76 million baby boomers were born, as were 55 million Gen Xers and 66 million millennials, while 61 million post-millennials, those ages 17 and below, were born from 1998 to 2012.

Millennials have to a considerable extent fared poorly in financial terms, due in part to recessions, a sluggish recovery, and student loan burdens. The Census Bureau recently reported that 30.3 percent of Americans 18 to 34 years old are living with their parents, up from 22.9 percent in 1980.

Another report, this one from the Educational Testing Service, disclosed that while millennials might be the most educated generation in American history, they performed poorly in an international test assessing their skills in several areas.

Millennials in 15 of the 22 countries scored higher than U.S. millennials in the tests, and U.S. millennials ranked dead last for "numeracy" — the ability to do basic mathematics — and were tied for last for "problem solving in technology-rich environments."

Editor's Note:


4. Ayatollah Denies Persecution of Christians in Iran

In the wake of the ISIS beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, Iran's supreme leader asserted that in contrast, Muslims in Iran have never committed offenses against non-Muslims since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Yet religious freedom activists charge that Iran is among the world's worst persecutors of Christians and even non-Shiite Muslim minorities. For the past 11 years, Iran has been included in the top 10 on Open Doors USA's yearly list of the world's worst persecutors of Christians, reaching as high as second place in 2010 and 2011 and in the top five for nine of the 11 years.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went on Twitter to tell his 100,000 followers: "In Iran after Islamic Revolution, there is no record of an offense being done by Muslims against non-Muslims."

He added the hashtag "#ChristianLivesMatter."

In another tweet, Khamenei said: "We don't forget how much Iranian Christians have taken pains to render services & some of them have [been] martyred in Saddam's war against Iran."

But CNS News pointed out two of the most egregious instances of Iranian persecution of Christians in recent years.

Saeed Abedini, who converted from Islam to Christianity and holds American citizenship, helped lead underground house churches in Iran before moving to the United States. He was arrested in 2012 while visiting his family in Iran and is serving an eight-year prison term for "crimes against national security."

Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor who also converted from Islam to Christianity, was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2011. He was eventually acquitted in late 2012.

Yet in an official submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2010, Iran said that members of religious minority groups, including Christians and Jews, "within the limits of the law are free to perform their religious rights and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.

"The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice."

A census in 2011 revealed that at that time there were 117,000 Christians in Iran, comprising 0.15 percent of the population.

In spite of government declarations, Iran is one of eight nations designated as "countries of particular concern" under American law for violations of religious freedom, along with China, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan.

Editor's Note:


5. Doctor: Polio Could Reappear in U.S.

The recent outbreak of measles, a disease declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, has prompted fears that another even more dangerous disease could reappear — polio.

Polio afflicted thousands in the U.S., including 50,000 in 1952 alone — 21,000 of whom suffered mild to severe paralysis — before the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk became widely available in 1955. By 1962, polio cases had dropped to less than 1,000.

Polio was considered eradicated in the United States in 1979, but it still exists in some other countries. An estimated 350,000 cases were reported worldwide as recently as 1988, when an effort to eradicate it globally was launched by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation.

But in May 2014 the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern due to the outbreaks of polio in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The fear is that a visitor to the U.S. infected with the polio virus could transmit it to unvaccinated Americans.

"We have a perfect storm for polio to make a reappearance in the American scene," Dr. Robert Daum of the University of Chicago told CBS News Chicago.

John Hewko of Rotary International said: "Someone could come from Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and be a carrier of the virus and then pass it on to people who are not vaccinated."

An estimated 3 percent of American children under age 3 were not vaccinated in 2013.

"We are nowhere near 100 percent coverage with the vaccine," Dr. Daum said. "Some parents are concerned about vaccines and some kids don't get medical care at all."

Another problem is that the vaccine that has been used in the U.S. since 2000 makes people immune to polio, but if they come in contact with an infected person, they could catch the virus and carry it in their intestinal tract, then pass it on to unvaccinated people.

Dr. Daum added: "Polio could happen this afternoon or it could happen 10 years from now."

FOOTNOTE: In 2003 in northern Nigeria — where the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has flourished — a fatwa was issued declaring that the polio vaccine was a conspiracy by the United States and the United Nations against the Muslim faith, claiming that the vaccine was designed to render children sterile, UNICEF reported. Subsequently, polio reappeared in Nigeria and spread to several other countries.

Editor's Note:


6. Half of D.C. Residents Attend Church 'Seldom or Never'

Fewer than one in four adults living in Washington, D.C., regularly attend church — nearly the lowest percentage in the nation, according to a large-scale Gallup poll.

Gallup last year asked more than 175,000 Americans aged 18 and older how often they attend church, synagogue, or mosque.

They were given these choices: At least once a week; almost every week; about once a month; seldom or never.

Nearly half of the residents of the District of Columbia, 47 percent, said they attend church seldom or never, while just 23 percent attend at least once a week, 28 percent attend almost every week or once a month, and two percent did not make a choice.

Only four states had a lower percentage of people who attend weekly than the nation's capital.

Nine of the states with the highest percentage of weekly attendees are in the South, with Mississippi on top at 47 percent, followed by Alabama and Louisiana (both 46 percent), Arkansas (45 percent), South Carolina and Tennessee (both 42 percent), Kentucky (41 percent), North Carolina (40 percent), and Georgia (39 percent).

But the highest percentage of all is in Utah, 51 percent.

"The strong religious culture in the South reflects a variety of factors, including history, cultural norms and the fact that these states have high Protestant and black populations — both of which are above average in their self-reported religious service attendance," Gallup observed.

"Utah's No. 1 position on the list is a direct result of that state's 59 percent Mormon population, as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S."

The four states with the lowest percentages of weekly attendees are in New England — Vermont (17 percent), New Hampshire (20 percent), Maine (20 percent), and Massachusetts (22 percent). Another New England state, Connecticut, is also low at 25 percent.

The highest percentage of adults who attend church seldom or never is in Maine, 65 percent.

Gallup added: "For most segments of U.S. society — blacks being the exception — those who are the most religious are also most likely to be Republican, which helps explain the significant relationship between states with the highest church attendance and those that are traditionally red states."

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Editor's Note:


Editor's Notes:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. U.S. Homeownership Rate Hits 21-Year Low 2. Poll: Govt Workers Should Pay More for Retirement 3. Millennials Will Outnumber Baby Boomers This Year 4. Ayatollah Denies Persecution of Christians in Iran 5. Doctor:...
Iran, Denies, Persecuting, Christians, Homeownership Hits 21-Year Low, US Polio Outbreak Feared, Poll Govt Workers Should Pay More for Retirement, Millennials Will Outnumber Baby Boomers This Year, Half of D.C. Residents Attend Church Seldom or Never
Sunday, 01 March 2015 07:35 PM
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