WASHINGTON -- Veterans and disabled workers who often struggle to find work could have an easier time landing a job under new federal regulations.
The rules, announced Tuesday by the Labor Department, will require most government contractors to set a goal of having disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their employees. The benchmark for veterans would be 8 percent, a rate that could change from year to year depending on the overall number of former military members in the workforce.
The new requirements could have a major impact on hiring since federal contractors and subcontractors account for about 16 million workers -- more than 20 percent of the nation's workforce. But some business groups have threatened legal action, complaining that the rules conflict with federal laws that discourage employers from asking about a job applicant's disability status.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the new policy a "win-win" that will benefit workers "who belong in the economic mainstream and deserve a chance to work and opportunity to succeed." He said it also would benefit employers by increasing their access to a diverse pool of new workers.
The unemployment rate for disabled workers is a staggering 14.7 percent, nearly twice the rate of 7.4 percent for the general population. The jobless rate for all veterans is 7.3 percent, but for veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars it's 9.9 percent, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hasan has last chance: With his life on the line, Maj. Nidal Hasan has done nothing to dissuade jurors from giving him a death sentence. When his standby lawyers pleaded in vain to argue on his behalf, he described them as "overzealous." Hasan has presented no witnesses or evidence during sentencing after being convicted last week of gunning down 13 people in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. He'll have one last chance today during closing arguments at sentencing before jurors decide his fate.
Bail at $3M for second teen: Bail has been set at $3 million for a 16-year-old boy arrested in the beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran. Spokane County District Judge Debra Hayes on Tuesday also ordered Kenan Adams-Kinard moved from a juvenile jail to the Spokane County Jail. He will be tried as an adult and faces up to life in prison if convicted. On Monday, bail was set at $2 million for another 16-year-old, Demetrius L. Glenn. Both teens are charged in last week's beating death of Delbert Belton, who survived the Battle of Okinawa.
Zimmerman will ask Fla. to pay some bills: George Zimmerman's attorney said Tuesday that he is going to ask the state of Florida to pay for some of his client's non-lawyer legal bills, including for experts, printing and court reporters, and that the price tag could reach $300,000. Zimmerman was acquitted last month of all charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin. The decision in the nationally televised trial touched off protests across the country. Since he was found not guilty, Zimmerman is entitled under a Florida law to recoup the defense costs, minus private attorney fees, said his lawyer Mark O'Mara. It also says that any costs already paid can be refunded with the approval of a judge, he said.
Envoy to seek release of American: Senior U.S. envoy Bob King will travel to North Korea this week to seek the release of an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the authoritarian country, the State Department said Tuesday. The visit by Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will be the first public trip to North Korea by an administration official in more than two years and could provide an opening for an improvement in relations severely strained by Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons. State Department spokesman Marie Harf said King will request a pardon and amnesty for 45-year-old Kenneth Bae on humanitarian grounds.
Seized parts likely for N. Korean use: An arms control institute said fighter jet parts seized from a North Korean ship by Panamanian authorities were likely intended for use by North Korea, an apparent violation of UN sanctions. The findings by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute contradict Cuba's claim that it was not violating the sanctions as it was sending jet parts, missiles and other equipment to North Korea for repairs and expected it all to be returned. UN sanctions are imposed because Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons forbid it from trading arms.
U.S. consumer confidence rises: Americans' confidence in the economy inched closer to a 51⁄2-year high on growing optimism that hiring and wages could pick up in coming months. The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 81.5 in August. That's up from a revised reading of 81 in July. And it's just below the 82.1 reading in June, which was the highest since January 2008. Consumers' income expectations, which fell earlier this year after a January tax hike, rebounded to the highest level in 21⁄2 years, said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's economic indicators.
Labels radioactive leak "serious:" Japan's nuclear regulator today upgraded the rating of a leak of radiation-contaminated water at its tsunami-wrecked nuclear plant to a "serious incident" on an international scale. The Nuclear Regulation Authority originally gave a Level 1 rating -- an "anomaly," to the Aug. 19 leak of 300 tons (80,000 gallons) of water from a tank at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.