Tags: US | Gives | Billions | to-UN | Obamacare Cuts Part-Timers Pay | Smart Drilling Fuels US Energy Boom | Pew Poll Poor Are Too Dependent on Government

US Gives Uncounted Billions to UN; Obamacare Cuts Part-Timers' Pay; 'Smart Drilling' Fuels US Energy Boom

By    |   Sunday, 26 May 2013 01:57 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. 'Smart Drilling' Fueling U.S. Oil and Gas Boom
2. Part-Time Workers Losing Pay Due to Obamacare
3. America's Real Contribution to U.N. Is Unknown
4. Hispanic High School Grads Top Whites in College Enrollment
5. Israel Could Use 'Gas for Peace' Strategy
6. Pew Poll: Poor Are Too Dependent on Government

1. 'Smart Drilling' Fueling U.S. Oil and Gas Boom

The surge in U.S. oil and gas production in recent years is commonly attributed to improvements in hydraulic fracturing — fracking — in shale fields around the nation.

But much of the credit should also go to advances in computer technology and fiber optics, which support the "smart drilling" that makes the search for oil and gas deposits much more accurate.

In the past five years, technology has improved the productivity of the typical oil or gas rig on U.S. shale fields by 200 to 300 percent, Forbes.com reported.

In just two years, oil production has risen five times as fast as wind power and 200 times as fast as solar.

Globally, the cost to find and yield a new barrel of oil has risen from $6 a barrel in 1998 to $27 today. But in U.S. shale fields, the price has dropped to $7 to $15 a barrel.

American oil production will soon surpass Saudi Arabia's output, according to the International Energy Agency.

"Although horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — fracking — have been widely reported as the reasons for the recent American oil and gas boom, neither of these is explanatory," Forbes observes.

"In fact, the techniques are decades old. The boom emerged from smart drilling."

At the core of smart drilling is seismic imaging, which is used to detect oil in the ground. The 3-D imaging benefits greatly from fiber optics, which allows oil companies to record and interpret far more data than previously possible.

Modern computer analysis now quickly computes massive amounts of data that took the first 3-D seismic survey mainframe computer in the early 1970s two years to process.

The end result: U.S. drilling success rates have risen from an average of barely 50 percent in 1972 to over 85 percent today.

Editor's Note:

2. Part-Time Workers Losing Pay Due to Obamacare

Many part-time workers are getting slammed with a one-two punch from Obamacare — loss of pay and denial of access to employer-sponsored healthcare insurance.

The healthcare reform legislation passed into law requires large employers offering health insurance to include part-time employees working at least 30 hours a week.

Instead, a growing number of employers are cutting back part-timers' work hours to avoid paying for their insurance.

An estimated 2.3 million workers nationwide are at risk of losing hours and therefore pay, according to research by the University of California-Berkeley cited by the Los Angeles Times.

The Times offered as an example the city of Long Beach, Calif., which is limiting most of its 1,600 part-time workers to no more than 27 hours a week.

Large restaurant chains and retailers are also beginning to cut back on employee hours, and colleges are reducing courses for part-time professors.

According to the Times, the average annual premium for employee coverage was $6,540 in California last year, and family coverage was more than $16,000 a year. Nationwide, employee-only coverage cost $5,615 last year, and family coverage cost $15,745, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported.

One consolation for part-time workers is that due to low salaries, many of them will qualify for government insurance or be eligible for discounted premiums on private policies beginning in January.

On the other hand, it's expected that some businesses will drop health coverage entirely and instead pay a penalty of $2,000 per worker.

Editor's Note:

3. America's Real Contribution to U.N. Is Unknown

How much money does the United States currently contribute to the United Nations and its various agencies? Surprisingly, no one knows for sure.

The State Department does report on its spending at the United Nations, but it is only one of several federal agencies that give money to the world body each year.

In its fiscal 2014 State and Foreign Operations budget proposal released in April, the Obama administration asked for $1.57 billion for contributions to international organizations, including $617.6 million for the U.N. operating budget — up from $568.8 million in fiscal 2012.

But other agencies giving to the U.N. include the Departments of Labor, Energy, Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services, CNS News reported.

Fiscal 2007 legislation stipulated that the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) report all federal agencies' contributions, but the requirement expired in 2011.

Now Republican Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, and others, are submitting legislation that would reinstate the requirement.

"It's disturbing that no one, including our ambassador to the United Nations, knows exactly how much money we send the U.N. every year," Enzi said in a statement.

"With a national debt exceeding $17 trillion, we need to be able to account for every dime we spend, including what we send to the U.N."

The last OMB report to Congress on U.N. contributions was issued in June 2011 and covered fiscal 2010. It showed that State was just one of 17 government agencies giving money to U.N. organizations, funds, affiliates and other bodies, and the total expenditure that year was $7.69 billion — more than 10 times the amount requested for State in fiscal 2014.

In addition to the billions being contributed to various bodies within the U.N. system, the United States provides 22 percent of the U.N.'s operating budget, more than twice as much as the No. 2 contributor, Japan (10.8 percent).

Other legislation likely to be introduced in Congress would change the way the United Nations is funded, allowing the United States to fund only those activities and agencies that are "efficient and in the national interest," according to CNS News.

As the Insider Report disclosed earlier, the United States did cut off funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after it voted in October 2011 to approve the Palestinian Authority's full membership in the agency. But that move was required by U.S. laws.

Editor's Note:

4. Hispanic High School Grads Top Whites in College Enrollment

For the first time, college enrollment rates for Hispanic high school graduates are higher than the rates for whites, a new report from the Pew Research Hispanic Center reveals.

A record 69 percent of Hispanic graduates in the high school class of 2012 were enrolled in college in the October following their graduation, compared to 67 percent of their white counterparts. The figure was 63 percent for black high school graduates and 84 percent for Asians.

As recently as 2000, only 49 percent of Hispanic high school graduates immediately enrolled in college the following fall. College enrollment has risen among all graduates since then, but it has risen the most among Hispanics.

The Pew report also reveals that in 2000, about 28 percent of Hispanic students dropped out of high school, but just half as many, 14 percent, dropped out in 2011.

"It is possible that the rise in high school completion and college enrollment by Latino youths has been driven, at least in part, by their declining fortunes in the job market," observe the report's authors, Richard Fry and Paul Taylor.

"Since the onset of the recession at the end of 2007, unemployment among Latinos ages 16 to 24 has gone up by 7 percentage points, compared with a 5 percentage point rise among white youths. With jobs harder to find, more Latino youths may have chosen to stay in school longer."

Another factor could be the importance that Latino families place on a college education, according to the report. In a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 88 percent of Latinos ages 16 and older agreed that a college degree is necessary to get ahead in life today, while another 2009 survey of all Americans ages 16 and older found that just 74 percent felt that way.

But Hispanics are less likely than whites to be enrolled in college full time — in October 2011, 78 percent of Hispanic college students were enrolled full time, compared with 85 percent for whites.

Latinos are also less likely than whites to complete a bachelor's degree. Census Bureau data show that in March 2012, 22 percent of whites ages 22 to 24 had at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 11 percent of their Hispanic counterparts.

Editor's Note:

5. Israel Could Use 'Gas for Peace' Strategy

The discovery of huge natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea could make Israel a gas exporter and improve ties with neighboring countries in need of energy resources.

"Some Israeli leaders have suggested the country should adopt a 'gas for peace' strategy, offering its energy resources to neighbors at discounted prices to cement peace ties," the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel was once totally dependent on fuel imports, but it is now expected to be an exporter by the end of the decade.

The Tamar field, 50 miles west of Haifa in waters 5,600 feet deep, came on line in March with an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, and can meet Israel's needs for decades.

The even larger Leviathan field, discovered in 2010 — which is 80 miles west of Haifa in waters 4,900 feet deep — is expected to begin production in 2016 and is estimated to hold 19 tcf. It may also contain 600 million barrels of oil.

"Gas gives you much more power than you had," Israel's Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said in an interview with Reuters.

"It is very helpful in the geopolitical arena. It is a tool we can use in a sensitive and very clever way to enable us to develop relations and to have better relations with many other countries."

A committee in Israel last year suggested that about 50 percent of Israel's gas resources should be offered for export once a 25-year supply for the domestic market was secured, the Post disclosed.

After the gas fields were discovered, Lebanon argued that they extend into Lebanese waters. But in August 2010, Lebanon told the United Nations that it considered the Tamar and Leviathan fields to be outside Lebanese territory.

Editor's Note:

6. Pew Poll: Poor Are Too Dependent on Government

The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that poor people are too dependent on government assistance, a poll reveals — and poll results differ very little according to income.

Overall, 71 percent of respondents in a Pew Research Center survey agree with the statement: "Poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs."

Somewhat surprisingly, 68 percent of respondents earning less than $30,000 a year agree — more than the 65 percent of those earning at least $100,000 a year. Among respondents earning between $30,000 and $100,000, 77 percent agree.

One in five Americans — more than 67 million — depend on Washington for assistance, according to the Heritage Foundation's 2012 Index of Dependence on Government.

Pew also asked respondents about this statement: "Many people today think they can get ahead without working hard and making sacrifices."

Among the lower earners, 53 percent agree, compared to 56 percent of the highest earners. Overall, 54 percent agree.

Less than six in 10 respondents earning $100,000 or more think that "being successful in a career is very important to me." But 69 percent of those earning under $30,000 say success is very important.

The income groups do differ sharply when it comes to marriage, Pew found. About half of those earning under $30,000 think that "the present institution of marriage is becoming obsolete." Just 25 percent of respondents earning at least $100,000 feel that way.

The Pew surveys were among several polls cited in a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank and publisher.

Editor's Note:

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Sunday, 26 May 2013 01:57 PM
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