National briefs: Cities grapple with high rents

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MIAMI -- For rent and utilities to be considered affordable, they are supposed to take up no more than 30 percent of a household's income. But that goal is increasingly unattainable for middle-income families as a tightening market pushes up rents ever faster, outrunning modest rises in pay.

The strain is not limited to the usual high-cost cities such as New York and San Francisco. An analysis for The New York Times by Zillow, the real estate website, found 90 cities where the median rent -- not including utilities -- was more than 30 percent of the median gross income.

Nationally, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a comprehensive Harvard study, up from 38 percent of renters in 2000.

Reports of data hacks rise

WASHINGTON -- According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 18 percent of American adults with Internet access have reported their personal information was stolen in a data breach. That's up from 11 percent who reported the same in July.

The percentage of those reporting a breach of their email, social media or other online accounts held steady at 21 percent in both years.

The study, which surveyed 1,002 adults, was conducted in January -- before the general public had any information about the Heartbleed bug but after the disclosure of major breaches at retailers.

Social Security drops debts

WASHINGTON -- The Social Security Administration said Monday it would stop trying to collect taxpayers' debts that were more than 10 years old.

The statement came after a Washington Post article revealed the Treasury had started intercepting the federal and state tax refunds of debtors' children -- even if the debts were decades old. The debts stem from overpayments by Social Security that the agency had been trying to recoup even if the original recipients had died.

A revision to the Farm Bill passed in 2008 lifted the statute of limitations "applicable to collection of debt by administrative offset." That allowed authorities to withhold tax refunds of 400,000 people who had relatives with debts, The Post reported.

Environmental groups unite

WASHINGTON -- Two of the nation's largest environmental groups are combining forces to raise $5 million for the 2014 election as a step to blunt better-financed efforts by industry groups fighting tougher climate-change laws.

The League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council said Monday they're starting LeadingGreen to raise funds for federal candidates and identify more big donors for broader lobbying efforts. The fundraising is similar to Emily's List, the nation's largest political action committee, which attracts donations and then bundles cash donations to the candidates it endorses.

Officials in the environmental groups said combining their fundraising may help dent efforts of pro-industry groups that outspend them on issues, including to block new rules to limit emissions tied to global warming from coal-fired power plants.

Judge strikes down Ohio ban

CINCINNATI -- Ohio's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in other states was declared void by a federal judge who joined courts in Kentucky and Tennessee that said similar laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

In a 45-page order, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black in Cincinnati on Monday permanently barred the state's use of its constitutional provision and related laws to deprive legally married same-sex couples of the rights and benefits accorded heterosexual married couples.

-- Compiled from news services


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