- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DELAWARE

O'Donnell disavows LinkedIn profile

DOVER | Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell says reports that she released false information about her educational background on an Internet networking site are “categorically untrue.”

Ms. O'Donnell’s campaign said Wednesday that she never established a personal profile on the LinkedIn networking site or authorized anyone to do so on her behalf.

Ms. O'Donnell says she has always been clear about her educational background and is urging LinkedIn to remove the unauthorized profile.

The LinkedIn profile states that Ms. O'Donnell attended Claremont Graduate University in California and Oxford University in England.

But on a 2006 resume, Ms. O’Donnell stated that she attended Claremont Institute, not Claremont University, and specified that the Oxford program was under the auspices of the Phoenix Institute.

HOUSE

Obama, top Democrats to huddle at White House

President Obama will meet Thursday with top congressional Democrats for one last strategy session before lawmakers flee town to campaign for re-election.

A Democratic aide said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top leaders of the House and Senate will attend the White House meeting. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private gathering.

The session will give the president and his top allies on Capitol Hill a chance to talk politics and discuss their legislative agenda, including plans for a lame-duck session after November’s election. Democrats have punted action on extending expiring tax cuts until then.

LABOR

Jobless rates drop in metro areas

Unemployment fell in nearly two-thirds of the nation’s 372 largest metro areas last month, the broadest improvement since May.

The jobless rate dropped in 230 cities in August, the Labor Department said Wednesday. It rose in 95 cities and was flat in 47. That’s an improvement from the previous month, when rates fell in only 152 areas.

Nationwide, unemployment ticked up in August to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent the previous month. Businesses added a net total of 67,000 jobs, but about twice as many temporary census jobs ended.

The metro report does not adjust its figures to take into account seasonal trends, such as high unemployment among agricultural workers before fall harvests begin. As a result, the figures can differ from the national trend and can be volatile from month to month.

The biggest monthly declines in unemployment were in cities in Mississippi and Michigan. Cities in Washington state and Louisiana, among others, saw the biggest increases.

The housing slump and rising foreclosures are holding back many cities out West, where unemployment rates are rising more than a year after the recession ended. Some economists forecast that trend will continue, even as other regions experience job growth.

For example, unemployment rose to 14.7 percent last month in Las Vegas, the city with the highest foreclosure rate. That’s up from 13 percent in August 2009. Reno’s unemployment rose to 13.3 percent from 11.7 percent a year ago and the rate in Carson City, Nevada’s capital, rose to 13.1 percent from 11.6 percent.

MEDICARE

Options to increase on prescription gap

Seniors with high drug costs will soon have more options to help them cope with Medicare’s prescription-coverage gap.

Reversing a steady decline, the number of prescription plans covering at least some brand-name drugs in the “doughnut hole” coverage gap will triple next year, from 35 to 106. That’s according to an analysis of Medicare data to be released Wednesday by Avalere Health, a private research firm.

At least two plans covering some brand-name drugs in the gap will be available in every region of the country. Overall, one-third of plans will offer gap coverage, up from one-fifth this year. Some only provide generics.

The plans that cover brand-name medications in the gap offer only a limited range, usually drugs to treat chronic illnesses. And the enhanced coverage comes with a higher monthly premium.

Nonetheless, some seniors may be willing to pay more for greater peace of mind. Some of the most widely used medications, including Lipitor for high cholesterol, are not available as generics.

“The coverage of generics in the gap has been fairly stable, but there has been very little coverage of brand-name drugs,” said Bonnie Washington, an Avalere researcher who worked on the study. “This is the first year we have really seen it come back.”

The coverage expansion is partly the result of prodding by Medicare officials to get private insurers to offer more robust plans, Washington said.

Medicare’s drug-coverage gap is a cost-control idea that has never been popular.

In 2011, the gap will start after Medicare beneficiaries and their insurance plan have spent $2,840 on medications.

After that, seniors are responsible for roughly the next $3,600. That’s the “doughnut hole.”

CONGRESS

Disabled to get boost on smart phones

The blind will have greater access to the Internet through smart phones, and devices such as iPhones and BlackBerrys will have to be hearing-aid compatible, under legislation Congress has sent to the president.

Mark Richert of the American Foundation for the Blind said Wednesday that the measure was one of the most comprehensive bills in decades to improve access for the disabled. “It breaks down barriers for all of us,” said Mr. Richert, who is blind.

The video-accessibility act passed the Senate last month and was approved by the House late Tuesday.

The measure sets federal guidelines for the telecommunications industry assuring that the blind will have access to the Web through improved user interfaces for smart phones. Also, over time, more than 60 hours a week of video programming must have audio descriptions.

WHITE HOUSE

White House awards $60K for healthy apps

The White House is giving out $60,000 to University of Southern California students and other contest winners who created phone apps to encourage exercise and healthy eating.

The $20,000 grand prize, announced Wednesday, goes to a team of USC students for their app called “Trainer.” The app gives users a virtual creature that stays alive as the user does real exercise, tracking physical activity with interactive webcam technology.

The Agriculture Department sponsored the digital game and phone-app contest, which received 95 eligible entries. Next up will be a contest to create healthy recipes for school lunches that appeal to kids.

The contests are part of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.