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More than half of small businesses have problems finding applicants for entry-level positions who possess the basic skills needed for the jobs, according to a survey by the National Alliance of Business.

The survey of 233 companies with 500 or fewer employees found that 70 percent reported difficulty finding applicants with sufficient writing skills to handle an entry-level job.

About 62 percent of those responding had trouble finding applicants with the necessary math skills, and 59 percent reported problems finding potential employees with sufficient reading skills.

The survey asked small-business leaders about the importance of the five foundation skills and seven competencies identified by the U.S. Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, or SCANS.

More than 98 percent of those responding said good listening skills for receiving instructions in the workplace are fairly important to very important for entry-level jobs. Sixty-four percent of the respondents said they had difficulty finding applicants who could adequately receive and act on oral instructions from supervisors.

The overwhelming majority of American students believe that the four white Los Angeles police officers virtually acquitted of beating Rodney King do not believe they were innocent, according to a new national poll.

The survey, conducted by Chilton Research Services for Scholastic Inc., also found that many students fear the verdict will worsen race relations in their communities.

The survey showed that only 7 percent of the students polled believed that the main reason the officers were exonerated by the Simi Valley jury was their innocence. Some 24 percent believed it was because of their race, and 19 percent because they are police officers.

Black and Hispanic students were more likely than whites to see racial motivations behind the verdict.

The students also expressed a lack of confidence in the integrity of the U.S. judicial system following the verdict. Sixty-eight percent of those polled said the system does not treat all people fairly. The percentage was even higher among high-school students (74 percent).

Over all, 43 percent of students polled said the verdict would affect race relations in their own communities; black students (56 percent) were especially concerned about future race relations.

The firm polled a random sample of 2,951 students in grades 3 through 12 on May 6 and 7.

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