US Govt Workers Are World's Highest Paid; NSA Shares Data Site With Polygamists

Sunday, 25 Aug 2013 12:00 AM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. U.S. Government Workers Best Paid in World
2. NSA's Data Center Site Is Home to Polygamist Sect
3. 'Political Choices' Blamed for Calif. High Home Prices
4. Two Christian Bishops Still Missing in Syria
5. Dallas Cowboys Now Worth $2.3 Billion
 

1. U.S. Government Workers Best Paid in World

Federal employees in the United States receive significantly higher total compensation than do central-government workers in other developed nations, according to a new analysis of income data.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provides figures showing how central-government workers are paid in the world's developed, high-income countries.

The OECD looked at the salaries, benefits, and paid leave for government employees and combined the values to compute total compensation in four main categories of public employees.

In the senior management category, top-level employees are classified as being at the D1 and D2 levels.

The D1 designates an employee just below cabinet level, and public employees at this level in the United States receive average compensation of $248,438 a year, compared to $228,832 for employees in 18 other OECD countries. That's according to Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, whose analysis was published by National Review Online.

D2 managers are immediately below the D1 level. They receive on average $261,226 a year in the United States — even more than D1 employees — and $173,913 elsewhere.

The middle management category includes civil servants whose positions are designated D3 and D4. They too receive significantly more in the United States than in other countries, as do workers in the professionals category, which includes economists and statisticians.

The secretarial staff category includes senior/executive secretaries, who earn $98,786 in America and $52,815 elsewhere, and office secretaries/general office clerks, whose compensation in the United States amounts to $69,476 compared to $47,783 in the other countries.

American government workers' salaries are not outrageously higher than those in other countries, but their benefits are. U.S. federal employees' total benefits add up to 37 percent of their wages, compared to 16 percent for employees in Australia, 27 percent in the U.K., and 23 percent in the OECD as a whole.

On average, American federal government workers receive 16 percent higher total compensation than do similar workers in other OECD nations, even after differences in the countries' average income levels are taken into account.

Yet Biggs points to several factors suggesting that U.S. federal employees are on average less skilled than their foreign counterparts.

"Federal taxpayers should be able to feel confident that they are not overpaying for the services they receive," Biggs concludes. "Liberals who favor activist government should support pay parity as a means to maintain support for government programs, just as budget hawks should do so to contribute to deficit reduction.

"But the evidence, from a variety of different angles, suggests we are still far from that goal."

Editor's Note:



2. NSA's Data Center Site Is Home to Polygamist Sect

Bluffdale, Utah, is home to the National Security Agency's massive new data center designed to intercept, analyze, and store vast amounts of the world's communications.

It also has another distinction: Bluffdale is headquarters of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), one of the nation's largest sects of polygamists.

The AUB has upwards of 9,000 members, according to Wired.com. Its communities of Mormon fundamentalists are mostly in Utah but there are also several in other states and Mexico.

The sect's Bluffdale complex includes a chapel, a school, archives, and a sports field.

Membership in Bluffdale "has doubled since 1978 — and the number of plural marriages has tripled," Wired.com reported.

The sect is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The NSA chose to locate its center in Bluffdale due in part to low utility rates there, especially water. A local TV station reported that the center will require 1.7 million gallons of water each day to keep its computers cool.

The site also takes advantage of available land on a military base, and is in an area with no history of natural disasters.

According to National Public Radio, the nearly completed $1.2 billion complex 26 miles south of Salt Lake City "features 1.5 million square feet of top secret space," with NSA computers filling up to 100,000 square feet.

The center will begin harvesting emails, phone records, text messages, and other electronic data in September.

Editor's Note:



3. 'Political Choices' Blamed for Calif. High Home Prices

Home prices in California have skyrocketed to such an extent that three-quarters of the residents in some metro areas can't afford to buy a house.

And an eye-opening report from NewGeography.com discloses that the unaffordable home prices are largely due to "regulatory factors" and high impact fees.

Until the early 1970s, home prices in California were in line with the rest of the country, with the median home just 7 percent above the national average. By 2013, it was 109 percent above the average.

In the San Francisco metropolitan area, only 17 percent of households can now afford to buy a home, compared to 60 percent nationwide. The Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose metros have affordability levels of 20 percent to 30 percent.

"Now even the middle class is forced into either being 'house poor' or completely shut out of home ownership, or may simply be obliged to leave the area," writes report author Joel Kotkin, executive director of NewGeography.com, whose books include "The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050."

In what could serve as a lesson for the rest of the country, Kotkin blames regulatory factors that restrict building in many areas in California and thereby sharply increase property costs. The cost of land that is available for housing has risen nine times as much in the Golden State as in the rest of the nation since 1970.

Housing prices are also driven up by sky-high impact fees, which are used to fund capital improvements. The average impact fee for a single-family home in 2012 was $31,100, easily the highest in the nation. The fees on multifamily units averaged $18,800.

"The roots of our state's massive social regression lie in political choices made by the state, counties, and cities," observes Kotkin in his report, which originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

He also notes that a growing percentage of working households are being forced to spend 50 percent or more of their income on housing, and adds: "This emerging social disaster has received little attention from the so-called progressives, whose policies in part are responsible for the state's growing housing crisis."

Editor's Note:



4. Two Christian Bishops Still Missing in Syria

The fate of two Christian bishops who were abducted in Syria remains unknown four months after they disappeared.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi, 54, and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, 65, were both based in Aleppo, Syria. On April 22, they were abducted by unknown assailants while carrying out humanitarian work near the Turkish border.

Their driver, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was shot dead.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria's population, have been targeted by anti-government rebels who consider them supporters of the Bashar Assad regime.

The rebels and the government's intelligence agencies have accused each other of the abduction. Assad said in an interview in May that the bishops were being held near the Turkish border by "terrorist groups."

But Lebanese media have reported claims that they were killed soon after their abduction.

And earlier this month the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied that the bishops were being held in Turkey.

In May, 72 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their "grave concern" over the disappearance of the bishops, stating: "We urge the State Department to make Metropolitan Yazigi and Metropolitan Ibrahim's immediate release and safe return to Aleppo a priority in our efforts in the region."

The bishops are among at least five Christian leaders kidnapped in Syria this year, CNS News reported.

An Armenian Catholic priest, Michael Kayyal, and a Greek Orthodox priest, Maher Mahfouz, were abducted while riding in a bus near Aleppo on Feb. 9, and an Italian priest, Paolo Dall'Oglio, disappeared on July 29 in a rebel-held city east of Aleppo.

A human rights organization has reported claims that the Italian priest was killed by al-Qaida-linked rebels.

A church source close to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch was quoted by the Beirut Star as saying the kidnapping of the two bishops was carried out to pressure Syrian Christians into supporting the rebels and not backing the regime, and to send the message that "Christians are no longer welcome in the Middle East."

Editor's Note:



5. Dallas Cowboys Now Worth $2.3 Billion

The Dallas Cowboys remain the most valuable franchise in the National Football League in 2013 — "America's Team" is now worth $2.3 billion.

But that's still $1 billion less than the world's most valuable sports franchise.

The NFL's 32 teams are worth $1.7 billion on average, 5 percent more than last year, according to Forbes.com. That compares to the $744 million average worth of Major League Baseball's 30 teams, the National Basketball Association's 30 teams ($509 million), and the National Hockey League's 30 teams ($282 million).

The world's 20 top soccer teams have an average value of $968 million.

The Cowboys were one of five NFL teams that posted double-digit gains in value over the past year, along with the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, and St. Louis Rams.

This is the seventh consecutive year that the Cowboys are the league's most valuable franchise. The team had 2012 revenue of $539 million, and operating income of $250 million. The only NFL team to post a loss in operating income last year was the Detroit Lions, who were $3.5 million in the red — the fourth consecutive season the team has lost money.

According to Forbes, the NFL's financial success can be attributed to lucrative television deals with four networks and a satellite service, state-of-the art stadiums in most cities, a hard salary cap for players, and the huge interest in fantasy football.

After Dallas, the most valuable NFL franchise is the New England Patriots, worth $1.8 billion. The Patriots have sold out every home game since 1994, despite high ticket prices.

Next is the Washington Redskins at $1.7 billion, New York Giants — whose 80,400 average attendance is second only to Dallas — at $1.55 billion, and Houston Texans at $1.45 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 are the New York Jets ($1.38 billion), Philadelphia Eagles ($1.31 billion), Chicago Bears ($1.25 billion), Baltimore Ravens ($1.227 billion), and San Francisco 49ers ($1.224 billion).

After the Lions, the team with the lowest operating income last season was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $2.2 million.

The least valuable NFL teams, according to Forbes, are the Oakland Raiders (worth $825 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($840 million), and Buffalo Bills ($870 million).

The three teams' values combined total barely more than the Cowboys' $2.3 billion.

The Dallas Cowboys franchise is not the world's most valuable in major sports, however. Three European soccer teams are worth more: Real Madrid (worth $3.3 billion in March), Manchester United ($3.17 billion), and Barcelona ($2.6 billion).

The only American sports franchise that can match the Cowboys is the New York Yankees — the team was valued at $2.3 billion in March.

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Editor's Note:



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