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Updated: Tue, 08 Oct 2013 04:17:10 EST

JIMMY CARTER-HABITAT Carter: Middle class today resembles past's poor OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter says the income gap in the United States has increased to the point where members of the middle class resemble the Americans who lived in poverty when he occupied the White House. Carter offered his assessment of the nation's economic challenges Monday at a construction site in Oakland — the first of five cities he and wife Rosalynn plan to visit this week to commemorate their three-decade alliance with Habitat for Humanity. During an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, he said that years of tax breaks for the wealthy, a minimum wage untethered from the inflation rate and electoral districts drawn to maximize political polarization have reduced the quality of life for all but the richest Americans. Carter says that even comparatively well-off regions like the San Francisco Bay Area have been hard-hit by foreclosures and need more affordable housing. HEAD START-PHILANTHROPISTS Donors pledge up to $10 million to fund Head Start ATLANTA (AP) — National Head Start Association officials say a donation of up to $10 million from two philanthropists will help keep Head Start programs running during the federal government shutdown. NHSA officials said in a release Monday that Laura and John Arnold's donation will help serve more than 7,000 at-risk children while the government shutdown continues. Programs in Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, South Carolina and Missouri were closed at the end of the first week of the shutdown. NHSA officials say the programs have been allocated federal funding, but administrators are blocked from accessing the money because of the stalemate in Washington. National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci called the Arnolds' donation selfless and says the program helps more than 27 million of America's poorest children prepare for kindergarten. SHUTDOWN-GEORGIA VETERANS Building housing Ga. veterans' office closing DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Georgia Department of Veterans Services officials say the building that houses its claims and appeals division is closing because of the government shutdown. Officials say the office will be closed to visitors beginning Tuesday because the Department of Veterans Affairs Atlanta Regional Office, which houses Georgia's claims and appeals division, has reduced staffing levels in response to the federal government shutdown. Officials say the department's Claims and Appeals Division will be fully staffed, but customers must contact the office by phone or email because the building will be closed to visitors. Aside from the closure of the regional office building, officials say all other Georgia Department of Veterans Services operations — including those housed at local VA medical centers — will be fully functional. HIGHWAY LANE COLLAPSE GDOT repairing collapsed lanes on I-85 in DeKalb ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Department of Transportation officials are working to repair two lanes on Interstate 85 that collapsed in northeast Atlanta. Officials say the southbound HOV lane and the lane next to it on the left will be closed until at least Tuesday while maintenance crews repair a broken drainage structure and repair a sinkhole beneath it. The pavement collapsed on a stretch of the highway near Clairmont Road. Drivers are being asked to carpool or avoid the area if possible. SCHOOL-DOG ATTACK Ga. school locked down following dog attack ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Public Schools officials say a student has been hospitalized after being bitten by a dog on a campus playfield. School district spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green says a student who was bitten on the football field at The New Schools at Carver Monday afternoon suffered bite wounds to the face and has been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Green says witnesses reported seeing two dogs on campus. The incident prompted a lockdown, which had been lifted as of 3 p.m. Green said the attack did not disrupt student dismissal. It's unclear who the dogs belonged to, or how they got onto the football field. Additional information was not immediately available. KNOCKOUT CHALLENGE-WARNING Ga. school officials warn parents of knockout game (Information in the following story is from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, ) COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — School district officials in western Georgia are asking parents to ensure their children aren't playing a game called the "Knockout Challenge." The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus reported Monday that Muscogee County spokeswoman Valerie Fuller sent an automated phone message to parents and an email last week warning them of the game. Officials say the game's participants take several deep breaths until they feel dizzy. A second participant then applies pressure to the first participant's chest until they temporarily lose consciousness. Columbus Regional Health Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Joseph Zanga says the game poses health risks — including death — to participants. Fuller is asking parents to monitor their children's cellphone and social media conversations to ensure they're not participating in the game.

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