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Tags: ISIS | Beard-Patrol | Persecutes | Iraqis | UN OKs Hamas-Linked Group | Sugary Drinks Targeted in San Francisco | One in Five Americans Get Means-Tested Govt Aid

ISIS 'Beard Patrol' Persecutes Iraqis; UN OKs Hamas-Linked Group; Sugary Drinks Targeted in San Francisco

By    |   Sunday, 07 June 2015 04:15 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. One in Five Americans Get Means-Tested Govt Aid
2. ISIS 'Beard Patrol' Terrorizing Iraqi Men
3. Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Campaign Finance Reform
4. San Francisco Wants Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks
5. U.N. Vote Supports Group Linked to Hamas
6. Regulations Discourage New Hydroelectric Plants

1. One in Five Americans Get Means-Tested Govt Aid

About 52.2 million Americans, or 21.3 percent of the population, received aid from a major means-tested government assistance program in 2012, according to a new Census Bureau report released in late May.

The average monthly participation rate in means-tested programs was up from 18.6 percent in 2009 and 20.9 percent in 2011.

Determination of eligibility for means-tested assistance is based on whether an individual or family has income and/or assets that fall below specified thresholds.

Participation rates in the programs were highest for Medicaid, 15.3 percent of Americans, and the food stamp program, 13.4 percent.

The largest share of participants in any of the public assistance programs, 43 percent, remained in the programs between 37 months and 48 months, and 31.2 percent of people participated between one and 12 months from January 2009 to December 2012, according to the report, "Dynamics of Economic Well-Being, Participation in Government Programs 2009-2012: Who Gets Assistance?"

Nearly half of the people receiving housing assistance benefits, 49.4 percent, participated between 37 and 48 months. The largest share of people participating in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) were in the program between one and 12 months.

Other findings in the Census Bureau report include:

  • In an average month, 39.2 percent of children received some type of means-tested benefit, as did 12.6 percent of those 65 and older.
  • 41.6 percent of black Americans received benefits in an average month, compared to 36.4 percent of Hispanics, 17.8 percent of Asians or Pacific Islanders, and 13.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
  • Half of all households headed by a woman participated in major means-tested programs, while just 14.7 percent of married-couple families participated.
  • 37.3 percent of people who did not graduate from high school received means-tested benefits, and so did 9.6 percent of those with one or more years of college.

Editor's Note:


2. ISIS 'Beard Patrols' Terrorizing Iraqi Men

Iraqi men in the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul have been warned that they face punishment from the militant group's "beard patrols" if they shave or trim their beards.

ISIS has distributed a leaflet quoting sayings of the Prophet Mohammed supporting the claim that he banned shaving.

"What hairdressers do today, shaving and trimming men's beards, is an accessory to sin," the leaflet states.

"Thanks to our brothers from the Islamic police, an order has been issued for the shaving of beards to be banned and violators to be detained."

One 18-year-old Mosul resident who has yet to grow enough facial hair for a beard told AFP: "I'm scared because they deal with anyone who opposes or ignores their instructions."

Mosul had a population of 1.8 million in 2008, but half a million residents fled as ISIS captured the city in June 2014, seizing large amounts of U.S. military equipment left behind by fleeing Iraqi troops. The few remaining Christians in Mosul have been expelled by ISIS.

Since then ISIS has imposed strict Islamic discipline on city residents, regulating everything from education to the opening hours of shops, AFP reported.

Anyone leaving the city needs approval from the militant group and must deposit documents proving ownership of property that can be seized if the applicant does not return by a certain deadline.

The Taliban also had so-called "beard patrols" in Afghanistan that could imprison a man for three days for trimming his beard.

ISIS has motives apart from religion for banning shaving and beard trimming in Mosul, according to several residents.

"They want to make everyone a human shield," said a teacher in the city. "With military operations (to retake Mosul) looming, they want to blend in with the population."

Another resident said ISIS has ditched military vehicles and flags and has been using more unmarked cars.

"This new rule on growing beards is in the same vein," he said. "They want to hide among civilians."

Editor's Note:


3. Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Campaign Finance Reform

A huge majority of Americans believe that the nation needs major, even drastic, reform of its campaign finance system, a new poll discloses.

In the New York Times/CBS News survey, 39 percent of respondents said the system for funding political campaigns requires major changes, 13 percent said it needs minor changes — and 46 percent believe the system needs to be "completely rebuilt."

A solid 84 percent said money has too much influence in political campaigns, including 90 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans, while 10 percent said its influence is "about right" and just 5 percent said it plays too little of a role.

Three-quarters of those polled said groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns should be required to publicly disclose their contributors.

About the same percentage believe spending by those groups should be limited by law, and agree that spending by individuals should also be limited.

The Supreme Court's ruling five years ago in the Citizens United case was largely based on the argument that political money is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

But in the Times/CBS poll, 54 percent of respondents, including 53 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent of independents, said they do not consider money given to political candidates to be a form of free speech.

A majority of respondents, 55 percent, believe that candidates who win office promote policies that directly help the people and organizations who donated money to their campaigns "most of the time," and another 30 percent said "sometimes."

But despite the overwhelming support for campaign finance reform, just 39 percent of those polled are optimistic that reform will actually be implemented, and 58 percent are pessimistic.

"People with billions of dollars have a lot of influence with candidates that they help get elected," one poll respondent told the Times. "You can see the dollar signs on the wall."

The poll is not the first to express what amounts to opposition to the Citizens United ruling. An ABC/Washington Post survey conducted shortly after the high court's January 2010 decision showed that 80 percent of respondents opposed the ruling, including 65 percent who strongly opposed it.

And 72 percent supported an effort by Congress to reinstate limits on corporate and union spending on election campaigns, with a large majority of both Democrats and Republicans favoring it.

Editor's Note:


4. San Francisco Wants Warning Labels on Sugary Drink Ads

A panel of San Francisco lawmakers voted on Monday to approve a measure requiring what would be the nation's first warning labels on ads for sugar-sweetened beverages.

The measure would require the labels on all new soda advertising on certain surfaces including billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters, and sports stadiums, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The label would read: "Drinking beverages with added sugar leads to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco."

A panel of three supervisors voted unanimously to forward the proposal to the full Board of Supervisors for consideration.

"Our youth deserve to grow up where they are exposed to messages that promote health, not exposed to messages that promote harmful substances," Supervisor Malia Cohen said.

But Roger Salazar, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said: "We believe that all sugars are the same, and it has more to do with calories in, calories out than anything else. No one product can be singled out more than anything else.

"A warning label that is really aggressive doesn't educate, it scapegoats."

A proposed tax of 2 cents per ounce on sugary drinks failed to pass in San Francisco in 2014, winning the backing of 55 percent of the voters, short of the required two-thirds, Reuters noted.

A bill to require warning labels on all bottles and cans of sugary drinks sold in California died in a state Senate committee in April.

And in 2013, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to ban large containers of sugary drinks was defeated by a legal challenge.

Editor's Note:


5. U.N. Vote Supports Group Linked to Hamas

A United Nations committee has granted official status to a Palestinian group that Israel and others have linked to the terrorist organization Hamas.

A 19-member Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, a standing committee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), voted on Monday to bestow "consultative status" to the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC). The non-governmental organization was declared illegal by Israel in 2010 because of its close ties to Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, and others.

Accredited NGOs can participate in sessions of the U.N. Human Rights Council as well as ECOSOC meetings, CNS News reported.

Following the vote, Israel's Permanent Mission to the United Nations issued a statement charging that the PRC "operates from Britain, promotes anti-Israel propaganda in Europe, in the political arena, in campuses, and among the European public."

Its members, Israel asserted, "are senior Hamas officials, operating to promote the terrorist group's agenda in Europe, and maintain direct contact with other Hamas senior officials. PRC's guidelines include the denial of Israel's right to exist."

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said: "According to this script, one day we may find Hezbollah sitting at the Security Council and ISIS voting at the Human Rights Council. This is peak season for the U.N.'s Theater of the Absurd."

The PRC issued a statement saying that it "will hand a letter of protest to the United Nations and the ECOSOC council against the false allegations circulated by Israel," and claimed that it is "not affiliated to any Palestinian party including Hamas."

But Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, said his group would show ECOSOC members "the long dossier of materials linking PRC to Hamas."

His group is launching a campaign aimed at persuading the full 54-member ECOSOC to vote against the committee's decision when it meets next month.

Nations voting in favor of granting official status to the PRC included Iran, China, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Mauritania, and Sudan, all ranked "not free" by the Freedom House, along with others ranked "partly free" — Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guinea, Pakistan, and Turkey.

The U.S., Israel, and Uruguay voted against the measure, while other members abstained or were absent.

When ECOSOC last year approved committee membership for the nations currently on the panel, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers protested that the council had handed seats on the committee to "repressive regimes that systematically limit the activities of non-governmental organizations."

The U.N. has a history of granting prominent positions to repressive member states. The Insider Report disclosed in April that the U.N. voted to give Iran a seat on a women's rights panel, even though Iran has been ranked among the worst countries regarding equal treatment for men and women.

The U.N. has also given Iran a seat on the executive board of the U.N. Children's Fund.

Last month the Insider Report also disclosed that one of the world's most repressive countries, Saudi Arabia, is actively seeking the presidency of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and U.N. Watch's Neuer said its election would be "like making a pyromaniac the town fire chief."

Editor's Note:


6. Regulations Discourage New Hydroelectric Plants

In 1920, hydroelectric power accounted for 25 percent of all electricity generation in the United States. It now accounts for just 7 percent.

That's due in part to the fact that traditional hydroelectric power, generated by the storage and release of water in reservoirs, has faced "regulatory and environmental restraints on growth for decades," according to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

While the federal government owns just 8 percent of all U.S. hydroelectric facilities, it accounts for 52 percent of total hydro generation because of the large size of its facilities, including the 29 hydroelectric dams that the Tennessee Valley Authority operates.

The private sector, public utilities, and state or local governments own the other 92 percent of hydro facilities, a total of more than 1,600 across the country.

High initial investment costs have discouraged the construction of new non-federal hydroelectric projects. But there are other key factors behind the lack of growth, the NCPA pointed out.

Regulations implemented in 1992 dramatically increased the waiting time for project development. Licensing through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for traditional hydroelectric projects can take from 16 months to 10 years, depending on environmental concerns.

In addition, nearly 900 dams have been removed in the last 25 years to restore wildlife habitats.

The NCPA added that many key rivers that could be dammed "are drying up as a result of changing weather patterns and outdated water sharing laws."

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Editor's Note:


Editor's Notes:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories): 1. One in Five Americans Get Means-Tested Govt Aid 2. ISIS 'Beard Patrol' Terrorizing Iraqi Men 3. Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Campaign Finance Reform 4. San Francisco Wants Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks 5....
ISIS, Beard-Patrol, Persecutes, Iraqis, UN OKs Hamas-Linked Group, Sugary Drinks Targeted in San Francisco, One in Five Americans Get Means-Tested Govt Aid, Americans Favor Campaign Finance Reform, Regulations Discourage New Hydroelectric Plants
Sunday, 07 June 2015 04:15 PM
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