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* U.N. rights expert issues report on extreme poverty in U.S.

* Says Trump policies remove safety net for the poor, reward rich

* Urges U.S. authorities to provide health care, social protection

* 41 million live in poverty in America, one third are children

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 2 (Reuters) – Poverty in the United States is extensive and is deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, called on U.S. authorities to provide solid social protection and address underlying problems, rather than “punishing and imprisoning the poor.”

While welfare benefits and access to health insurance are being slashed, President Donald Trump’s tax reform has awarded “financial windfalls” to the mega-rich and large companies, further increasing inequality, he said in a report.

U.S. policies since President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty in the 1960s have been “neglectful at best,” he said.

“But the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship,” Alston said.

Almost 41 million people live in poverty, 18.5 million of them in extreme poverty, and children account for one in three poor, he said. The United States has the highest youth poverty rate among industrialized countries, he added.

“Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate…and the highest…