|Issue of the Day Posts Tagged ‘Obama Administration’|
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps taps on our trash and has reported its findings on the generation and disposal of trash in the U.S. for 30 years. The data is used to map the success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. In 2007, the most recent data, Americans generated 254 million tons of trash and recycled/composted 85 million tons of that trash, an equivalent of a 33.4% recycling rate. On average, the normal American recycled and composted 1.5 pounds of 4.6 pounds of personal waste generated per person per day.
Over the years of data collection, the EPA has mapped a current recycling rate that is 3 times that of 1980. Recycling programs have fallen to 8,660 curbside recycling programs nationwide, down from 8,875 in 2002. Community composting programs, the decomposition of biodegradable material (e.g., yard trimmings, food scraps), have grown by 283 programs to 3,510 programs nationwide. In 2007, nearly 31.9 million tons of materials or 12.6% of all refuse was combusted for energy. Waste combustion for energy has remained fairly flat since 1990. The Obama Administration has included energy recovery from refuse as a part of its energy and environment initiative, which strives to increase the use of refuse and other renewable sources for alternative energy.
Obama Orders Benefit Extention to Federal Same-Sex Partners
Published Friday, June 19th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
In a move, “the first step” that partially confirmed a campaign promise, President Obama directed administrative agencies to extend family sick-leave policies such as visitation or dependent-care rights to same-sex partners, but not health benefits. The new policy now allows for federal employees to use sick leave to care for same-sex partners and their children, plus partners can be added to a government insurance program that pays for long-term care. The Administration has pledged to work for a law that would extend full health benefits to same-sex partners and children. The President explained that to act unilaterally will not cement lasting change in benefits. He hopes to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and replace it with a law enacted by Congress that would fulfill his promise and make it lasting.
The percentage of workers who have access to benefits never equals 100%; in fact the Unions are the only group to achieve 92% covered by any kind of medical plan. Unions also have high percentages for drug care coverage at 87% and vision coverage at 57%. Non-union workers fared worse, with 68% covered by medical, 61% with drug care, and 26% with visual. Between white collar and blue collar workers, there is only 1-3 percentage points difference in coverage.
Trial Aims to Deal with Guantanamo Detainees and Terrorism
Published Wednesday, June 10th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
As a test case for the Obama Administration, Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani has been transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York to await trial in federal court. He faces 286 separate criminal charges from his alleged role in the August 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, including conspiring with al-Qaeda to kill Americans and 244 separate charges of murder for the many killed. Much has been said about bring terrorism detainees to the US for trial, but according to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 216 inmates with connections to international terrorism and 139 with connections to domestic terrorism in the federal prison system. The Obama administration argues that the Southern District of New York has a long, successful history of prosecuting terror cases and that this case should just be another.
There are many more international incidents of terrorism than domestic. In 2008, there were approximately 11,800 international terrorist attacks against noncombatants in various countries, in over 54,000 deaths, injuries and kidnappings. 2008 numbers were down from those in 2007, with an 18% or 2,700 decrease in incidents of terrorism and a 30% or 6,700 decrease in deaths associated with the attacks.
The idea that pre-school should be as universal as K-12 has been getting ever more attention by educators and public officials. The thinking is for government to provide education to all 4-year-olds in an effort to close the school-readiness gaps that exist and persist beyond kindergarten. The Obama administration has stated that early childhood education is one of the top priorities of his term, and the federal government intends to spend an additional $10 billion per year on enhancing early childhood education. A report by the Rand Corporation states that the achievement gap can be narrowed by 10 to 20% by increasing the number of underprivileged children attending pre-schools and by improving the quality of education.
School readiness studies measure a child’s ability to recognize letters, count to 20 or higher, write their own name and/or pretends to read. A child’s ability to accomplish these tasks rests on a myriad of conditions including gender; females out-perform males in almost every category for the last 13 years. Children of a two parent home fair 4-7% better at all skills measured than those of single or no parent households. Household income also impacts readiness since those above the poverty threshold are found to possess skills 15% more than those below the threshold. Strikingly, children whose mothers’ work and those not in the labor force also fair better than those whose mothers are unemployed. Readiness by race is close for whites, blacks and others; however, many Hispanic children fall behind as much as 5-15% compared to their counterparts.
US Elected to UN Human Rights Council After 3 Year Absence
Published Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
For the first time since the election reforms of the new United Nations Human Rights Council (previously known as the U.N. Human Rights Commission), the United States has been elected to sit on the 47 member council. The US had initially opposed the creation of the Council and refused to stand for election three years ago along with Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Initially, the Bush Administration agreed to fund the council and be an observer, but this was withdrawn. The Obama Administration reversed the Bush position and was elected along with 17 other countries such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
US and UN relations have been strained in other aspects of administration, especially in regards to contributions. The United States has, since 1992, sought a U.N. General Assembly reduction of the US peacekeeping assessment (budget contribution) to 25%, which would have increased other countries’ assessments. Despite the General Assembly’s refusal, the US has since Fiscal Year 1995 set its own assessment level of 25%. In 2001, the UN agreed to progressively reduce the US assessment levels; those levels have shrunk from the 28.15% in 2001 to 26% in 2007. However in 2005, despite Senator Biden’s efforts to set the cap at 27.1%, Congress chose to keep the US assessment at 25%. According to the UN, the efforts to cap its assessment have lead to an accumulation of debt by the US for its UN peacekeeping accounts at $1.3 billion, as well as a General Budget debt of 846 million.