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Tags: UN | Panel | Slams | Israel | Obama Gives Wind Firms 2.6 Billion | U.S. Water Bills to Triple | ACU Gives 23 in Congress a Perfect Score

UN Panel Slams Israel, Ignores Syria; Obama Gives Wind Firms $2.6 Billion

By    |   Sunday, 04 March 2012 05:42 PM EST

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Four Wind Energy Firms Got $2.6 Billion in Grants
2. ACU Gives 23 in Congress a Perfect Score
3. U.N. Panel on Women Slams Israel — Not Syria
4. Employers Push Back on New Hiring Target for Disabled
5. Report: U.S. Water Bills to Triple
6. Poll: Iranians Rate 'Democracy' as High Priority

1. Four Wind Energy Firms Got $2.6 Billion in Grants

The Obama administration has consistently promoted subsidies for "clean" energy technologies like wind and solar while charging that the oil and gas industry benefits from excessive taxpayer support.

But in fact subsidies for the oil and gas sector aren't all that large when compared to the amount of energy being produced, while the "green" economy is not creating large numbers of jobs, according to a new report by Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

President Barack Obama's budget proclaims: "We should not devote scarce resources to subsidizing the use of fossil fuels produced by some of the largest, most profitable companies in the world. That is why the Budget eliminates inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to address the threat of climate change."

The reference to the "largest, most profitable companies" reflects the administration's antipathy toward the hydrocarbon sector, Bryce asserts.

Apple Inc. has a market capitalization of $475 billion and a profit margin of 25.8 percent. Meanwhile, BP, the biggest producer of domestic oil, has a market capitalization of $147 billion and a profit margin of 6.8 percent.

Apple is three times as large and nearly four times as profitable as BP. Apple has virtually no manufacturing jobs in the United States and imports nearly everything from China. Meanwhile the domestic oil industry last year exported about 1 billion barrels of crude oil and refined products.

The administration shows no such antipathy toward the "clean" energy industry. In fact, between 2009 and late 2011, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the administration handed out $2.6 billion in tax-free grants to just four companies, all them board members of the American Wind Energy Association, Bryce discloses.

Two of those firms are foreign-owned — the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, which got $1 billion in grants, and German giant E.ON, which received $542 million.

A third firm, Terra-Gen, is building a wind farm in California that will create only about 50 permanent jobs — that works out to around $9 million per job.

The oil and gas industry, on the other hand, received "subsidies and support" totaling $2.82 billion, and that was spread among the 14,000 oil and gas companies operating in the United States.

The report notes that domestic oil production is now increasing, natural gas production is surging, driving down prices, and over the past five years about 158,000 new oil and gas jobs have been created, many of them high-paying.

Bryce concludes: "The Obama administration continues to vilify the very industry that's helping spur eco¬nomic growth. America doesn't need more slogans about 'clean' energy. It needs more cheap, abundant, reliable energy."

Editor's Note:

2. ACU Gives 23 in Congress a Perfect Score

The American Conservative Union has announced its 2011 Ratings of Congress, awarding its perfect 100 percent score to nine GOP senators, 14 House Republicans — and no Democrats.

"Since 1971, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization has annually graded Members of Congress based on their votes on key conservative issues," the ACU said in a statement.

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas said: "With government growing faster than at any other time in the history of our country, the American Conservative Union continues to play a major role in giving the American people the tools they need to make informed voting decisions at every level of government."

Cardenas went on to "applaud and thank the many Senators and Representatives who achieved perfect or high scores on our 2011 ACU Ratings of Congress. Their unwavering commitment to our shared conservative principles stands in stark contrast to the liberals in Washington who continue to rubberstamp President Obama's failed agenda for America."

The ACU tracks a wide range of issues before Congress to determine which votes serve as a clear litmus test separating conservatives from liberals.

The Senate received an overall rating of 62 percent for 2011, up sharply from 41.5 percent in 2010.

The Republican average was 83.4 percent, while Democrats scored a paltry 5.3 percent rating.

Republican senators who received a perfect 100 percent rating — called "Defenders of Liberty" by the ACU — are Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and David Vitter (La.).

Nineteen Democratic senators received a rating of zero percent, including Barbara Boxer (Calif.) Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Al Franken (Minn.), Harry Reid (Nev.), and Charles Schumer (N.Y.).

The lowest Republicans were Scott Brown (Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), both at 50 percent. The highest Democrat was Ben Nelson (Neb.) at 25 percent.

The overall House rating was 48.2 percent, with the Republicans averaging 81.5 percent the Democrats 6.5 percent.

Fourteen Republican House members were "Defenders of Liberty," while 54 Democrats scored a zero percent rating.

The lowest Republican was Richard Hanna (N.Y.) at 40 percent, and the highest Democrat was Dan Boren (Okla.) at 48 percent.

Founded in 1964, the ACU states that it represents the views of Americans who are concerned with economic growth through lower taxes and reduced government spending and the issues of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values and national security.

Editor's Note:

3. U.N. Panel on Women Slams Israel — Not Syria

The ongoing conflict in Syria has left thousands dead, including hundreds of women, but a United Nations body dedicated to women's issues has attacked only one country in this year's agenda — Syria's neighbor Israel.

The Jewish state is the target of the only resolution dealing with a specific country under consideration during the Feb. 27 to March 9 session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York.

The resolution calls Israel's occupation of disputed territory "the major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development of their society."

It cites "the systematic violation of their human rights resulting from the severe impact of ongoing illegal Israeli practices."

No resolution on Syria has been issued, even though a U.N.-backed independent commission of inquiry has reported on what it called "widespread and systematic violations" by Syrian security forces, including sexual violence, rape, and torture, according to CNS News.

At last year's CSW session, held while the conflict in Libya was raging, the only nation attacked in a resolution was — yes, Israel.

The resolution, entitled "Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women," was adopted by a vote of 26 to 2, with Israel and the United States opposing and eight countries abstaining.

Iran used its seat on the CSW last year to call the plight of Palestinian women "one of the greatest tragedies of history."

The World Economic Forum's 2011 "Global Gender Gap," which assesses how well countries have closed gaps between women and men in economic participation, opportunity, and other areas, placed Israel at No. 55 among the 135 nations on the list, with the United States at No. 17.

Syria was No. 124, one place ahead of Iran at No. 125.

Editor's Note:

4. Employers Push Back on New Hiring Target for Disabled

The Obama administration is pushing a new regulation requiring most federal contractors to have disabled persons comprise at least 7 percent of their work force or risk having their contracts revoked.

One problem with the proposal: Only about 5.7 percent of the civilian work force — those working or looking for work — technically qualifies as disabled, meaning there might not be enough disabled workers for every business to meet the new requirement.

The Labor Department proposal "could reshape hiring at roughly 200,000 companies that generate $700 billion a year in contracts with the federal government," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Businesses with fewer than 50 workers and less than $50,000 in federal contracts would be exempt from the requirement. But larger firms that don't reach the 7 percent target could lose their contracts or be barred from obtaining future contracts until they demonstrate that they attempted to meet the goal.

"We are very concerned that the department is moving forward with what is clearly a fundamental change in longstanding policies regarding affirmative action," Jeffrey McGuiness told The Journal. McGuiness is president of the HR Policy Association, a trade group for human-resource executives at more than 300 of the largest private-sector U.S. companies.

Some employers fear they could have to fire nondisabled workers to achieve the 7 percent ratio, and say that existing federal law prohibits them from asking if a job applicant is actually disabled — "potentially forcing firms to violate one law in order to comply with another," The Journal observes.

The proposal doesn't spell out what would be considered a disability, but the Americans with Disabilities Act says employees are disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities.

Regulators are reportedly also considering requiring that 2 percent of a business' workers be severely disabled, such as those with total blindness or missing extremities.

A number of employers and business groups have contacted the Labor Department to express their opposition to the new rule.

Another Obama administration effort affecting the disabled, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (or CLASS Act) was originally included in Obamacare. It was intended to allow citizens to purchase insurance so they could collect an additional source of income if they were later disabled.

But the provision met stiff resistance, and in October 2011 the administration announced it would be dropped.

Editor's Note:

5. Report: U.S. Water Bills to Triple

A troubling new report asserts that Americans will see their water bills double or triple in coming years to cover repairs to the nation's crumbling drinking water system.

Fixing and expanding underground water systems will cost over $1 trillion in the next 25 years and users will have to pay the bill, according to the American Water Works Association.

"Because pipe assets last a long time, water systems that were built in the later part of the 19th century and throughout much of the 20th century have, for the most part, never experienced the need for pipe replacement on a large scale," said the report.

"The dawn of an era in which the assets will need to be replaced puts growing stress on communities that will continue to increase for decades to come."

Families can expect to pay at least $300 a year more for water in taxes and fees just to keep their current systems operating. Add the cost of systems growth and improvement, and that bill increases to $900 for a family of three, said the report.

Currently, Americans pay about $335 a year for household water, according to the association.

Spending heavily now on upgrading the water system means lower costs in the future. But given the current mood for reduced government spending, a delayed and therefore more expensive fix is almost assured, the Water Works Association predicts.

"The United States is reaching a crossroads and faces a difficult choice," the report states.

"We can incur the haphazard and growing costs of living with aging and failing drinking water infrastructure. Or we can carefully prioritize and undertake drinking water infrastructure renewal investments to ensure that our water utilities can continue to reliably and cost-effectively support the public health, safety, and economic vitality of our communities."

Editor's Note:

6. Poll: Iranians Rate 'Democracy' as High Priority

When Iranian citizens were given a list of 11 issues and asked to rate their importance, they chose Employment as No. 1, but cited Democracy as No. 2, with Civil Rights third.

Interestingly, respondents in the poll by Zogby Research Services found that Iranians rated the Israel/Palestine issue as No. 10, with only Terrorism ranking lower.

Iranians chose Political Reform as the fourth most important issue, followed by End Corruption, Political Debate, Women's Rights, Education, and Healthcare.

"After the paramount concern with 'expanding employment opportunities,' Iranians rate a range of issues that all involve making fundamental change in their government and political climate as the most important issues," observed the Arab American Institute, which released the survey results.

The poll also found that 53 percent of Iranians are "Not satisfied" with the pace of change in their government, while 30 percent are "Satisfied."

Also, 43 percent of respondents said the country is on the "Wrong track," while 37 percent said "Right track" and 20 percent are "Not sure."

Among other findings of the Zogby poll:

  • 13 percent of Iranians polled say they have access to the Internet, up from 0.9 percent in 2000.
  • The top website visited by Iranians is Google, followed by Yahoo!
  • 42 percent of respondents say they have used Facebook, and 18 percent have used Twitter.
  • 28 percent of respondents are concerned about government monitoring of their Facebook and Twitter activities.

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Editor's Note:

Editor's Notes:

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Sunday, 04 March 2012 05:42 PM
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