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macon.com MIDDAY UPDATE: Longer-term jobless benefits hit 25-year high; suspects in plot to kill Obama plead not guilty; Tropical Storm Paloma forms; may become hurricane

The number of out-of-work Americans continuing to draw unemployment benefits has surged to a 25-year high, while shoppers turned extra frugal, further proof of the damage from sinking economy, credit problems and financial stresses.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits jumped by 122,000 to 3.84 million in late October. It was the highest level since late February 1983, when the country was struggling to recover from a long and painful recession.

New filings for jobless benefits last week dipped to 481,000, a still-elevated level that suggests companies are in a cost-cutting mode.

Democrats in Congress are pushing to include an extension of unemployment benefits in a new stimulus package, which could be taken up this month. Benefits typically last 26 weeks.

Congress approved a 13-week extension of benefits in June, and the department said about 773,000 additional people claimed benefits through that program for the week ending Oct. 18, the most recent data available. That extension is scheduled to end next June.

Americans hit by layoffs, shrinking nest eggs and other stresses are pulling back even more, sending sales at many big retailers down in what may have been the weakest October in decades. That further darkened the outlook for the holiday sales season.

Target Corp. and Costco were among the many retailers reporting sales declines last month. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, however, logged a sales gain.

Associated Press

Suspects in plot to kill Obama plead not guilty

Two white supremacists have pleaded not guilty in an alleged plot to kill President-elect Barack Obama and dozens of other black people.

Twenty-year-old Daniel Cowart of Tennessee and 18-year-old Paul Schlesselman of Arkansas spoke only to give their pleas Thursday morning in a Memphis courtroom.

They face federal charges of threatening a presidential candidate, possession of a sawed-off shotgun, planning to rob a gun dealer and taking firearms across state lines.

The seven-count indictment says the men hatched the plot for the killing spree sometime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 22. Court records indicate their scheme fell apart quickly.

Their arrests were made public Oct. 27 and they are being held without bond.

Associated Press

Tropical Storm Paloma forms; may become hurricane

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Paloma has formed off the coast of Nicaragua with winds reaching 40 miles-per-hour, and could strengthen into a hurricane by Friday.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami shows the storm could make landfall over Cuba as a hurricane. The track shows it could weaken and continue toward the Bahamas. A tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of Honduras and Nicaragua, and several inches of rain are expected in those countries.

Forecasters say the storm may also hit the Cayman Islands. Paloma is moving toward the north-northwest at about 7 miles-per-hour. It is expected to gradually turn toward the north, then to the northeast toward Cuba.

Associated Press

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