US to Defund UNESCO Over Abbas Bid

Sunday, 30 Oct 2011 04:43 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Democrats Veto 'Obamacare' Word in GOP Mailings
2. US to Defund UNESCO Over Palestinian Bid
3. Solo Commuting Up Despite High Gas Prices
4. Nurse Makes $270K on California's Overtime Binge
 

1. Democrats Veto 'Obamacare' Word in GOP Mailings

Democrats have been vetoing use of the word "Obamacare" in taxpayer-financed mailings, saying it violates rules against using the franking privilege for "personal, partisan or political reasons."

The bipartisan franking commission reviews official mail, email and social media for overtly political content. Gregory Abbott, the Democratic spokesman for the commission, told Roll Call "there has been a long-standing agreement" that the shorthand reference for the healthcare reform law "does not meet this standard."

And Republican spokeswoman Salley Wood conceded: "A bipartisan commission means bipartisan consent."

But other Republicans are irked by the move. One GOP House aide told Roll Call: "It's telling that Democrats are fearful of taking ownership of the president's signature piece of legislation.

"The White House and Congressional Democrats exhausted all of their political capital and a Congressional majority to move the bill across the finish line and into law. You would think given how much it cost them, that they would embrace the end result and proudly attach the president's name to it at every opportunity."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, charged that Republicans were trying to exploit Obama's unpopularity to make the healthcare law unpopular as well.

In June, House Democrats objected when Republicans stopped them from saying in official mass mailings that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's GOP budget would "end" Medicare.

Editor's Note:



2. US to Defund UNESCO Over Palestinian Bid

The United States will be required by law to withdraw all funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) if it votes, as expected, to approve the Palestinian Authority's full membership in the agency.

Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, has applied for U.N. recognition by the Security Council, and is moving ahead with applications to join individual U.N. agencies as the P.A. awaits the Council's vote. The vote on UNESCO membership is set for Monday.

If successful, the bid would force the Obama administration to cut funding to the agency.

Public Law 101-246, passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1990, states that "no funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states."

Public Law 103-236 Title IV, passed in 1994, prohibits "voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood."

UNESCO receives 22 percent of its operating budget from the United States, about $80 million a year, according to CNS News.

Americans for UNESCO co-chairs Esther Coopersmith and Richard Arndt wrote in a letter to supporters earlier this month about the possible U.S. funding cutoff: "Senior budget officers at UNESCO, analyzing the consequences, foresee immediate slashes in program activity, layoffs in personnel beginning in January, and other credible threats, including [to] UNESCO's pension system."

During the 1980s, the U.S. and Britain withdrew from UNESCO, accusing the agency of mismanagement and an anti-Western political agenda. Britain returned in 1997 and President George W. Bush restored the U.S. relationship in 2002, citing wide-ranging reforms.

A cutoff of American funding for UNESCO over the Palestinian issue would no doubt please Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been an outspoken critic of the U.N. She chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has approved a bill that would give America discretion over how, or even whether, it pays for U.N. activities.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax in September, she pointed out that American taxpayers last year gave $7.7 billion to the United Nations, accounting for 22 percent of its operating budget and 27 percent of its peacekeeping operations. "What are we getting in return? We're getting an agency that votes against us at every opportunity," she said.

"I say let's change this around. If we don't like the Human Rights Council, then let's not fund it. We should pick and choose cafeteria style which groups we want to help."

Editor's Note:



3. Solo Commuting Up Despite High Gas Prices

Gasoline prices soared 46 percent during the decade from 2000 to 2010, raising expectations of increased carpooling and mass transit use. But a new report instead shows a continued growth in the number of Americans who drive to work alone.

Solo commuting now accounts for 76.5 percent of the nation's workers, up from 75.6 percent in 2000. That's the highest this figure has ever been since it was first measured in 1960, according to the 2010 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau.

While 97.1 million Americans drove to work alone in 2000, 104.8 million did so in 2010.

"In view of the much higher gasoline prices that prevailed in 2010, it might have been expected that driving alone would lose market share from 2000," the New Geography website observed.

"But this did not — despite many media and academic claims that it would or was already taking place — occur."

In 2000, 12.2 percent of workers — 15.6 million — used a car pool to get to work. Those figures dropped to 9.7 percent and 13.2 million by 2010.

Furthermore, mass transit systems saw only a small gain in overall usage, from 4.6 percent of workers in 2000 to 4.9 percent in 2010. In 1960, 12.1 percent of workers used transit.

"Only an 8 percent increase in the transit market share occurred at the same time as gasoline prices increased a real 46 percent (adjusted for inflation)," New Geography noted.

A Brookings Institute report pointed to one significant reason why mass transit usage remains low: Less than 10 percent of the jobs in major metropolitan areas can be reached within 45 minutes using mass transit, compared with a 21-minute median commute time for solo drivers.

The percentage of Americans who work at home, 4.3 percent in 2010, is expected to surpass the percentage using mass transit before the year 2020.

Editor's Note:



4. Nurse Makes $270K on California's Overtime Binge

A state employee in California earned $269,810 last year working as a nurse at a men's prison by tripling her regular pay with overtime hours.

Jean Keller worked 2,450 extra hours in 2010 at a prison near San Luis Obispo, Bloomberg.com reported. Some of those hours were required, but many were volunteered.

California's public workers collected $1.7 billion in extra pay last year, more than half of it in overtime pay and the rest for unused vacation time and union-negotiated benefits such as clothing allowances.

State taxpayers shelled out the additional wages — enough to pay the average salaries of about 25,000 teachers — even as California faced a $19 billion budget deficit and cut school spending and services for the elderly.

"It's fiscal insanity," Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican, told Bloomberg, criticizing "this notion of spending money and paying people more than we need at a time when every department is broke, when we are starving our local schools and we are cutting public safety."

Ironically, requirements that workers take three unpaid days off each month, instituted during Arnold Schwarzenegger's tenure as governor, increase the workloads for remaining employees and the need for overtime hours.

Keller was far from the only public employee to reap huge sums in extra pay last year. Among them: A prison doctor cashed out more than $590,000 in vacation time when he retired, and the head of the state gambling commission received $169,623 in unused holiday pay.

"The extra compensation underscores a broader trend in California, where government workers are paid more than in other states for similar duties," Bloomberg observed.

For example, firefighters in Los Angeles are paid twice the national mean.

The average state worker in California earned $58,340 in total pay last year, while per-capita income for all employees in the state, public and private, was $42,578.

New York, with about half the population of California, gave state workers about $1.5 billion in extra pay last year.

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