Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bioterror imminent? Vote and be Vaccinated

Ohio Forced To Borrow Federal Money For Unemployment

COLUMBUS, Ohio—It’s a sign of the times: The state of Ohio’s unemployment fund has run out of money and how Ohio has been forced to borrow from the federal government to keep paying out benefits.

What if you lose your job next week? What if you own a small business? NBC 4‘s Patrick Preston got answers.

Last week, unemployed Ohioans waited on the phone for hours to sign up for benefits after high demand and technical glitches crashed the state’s benefits Web site.

The Web site has been fixed, but the state’s funding formula remains broken, with too many unemployed workers collecting payments and not enough money coming in.

“Should workers be worried if they lose their job that there won’t be any benefits to collect?“ Preston asked.

“They absolutely should not be worried,“ said Sara Hall Phillips, Labor Policy Analyst with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “The benefits will be there for them. We’re federally required to provide benefits.“

The federal government will continue loaning money to keep payments going as long as needed. The bad news is for businesses paying the taxes that fund the unemployment benefits.

“We’re realistic enough to know that employers are probably going to have to put more money into the system,“ said Andy Doehrel, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Doehrel said there are only two ways to fix the current funding formula: increase taxes or reduce or freeze the payouts—or a combination of the two.

If the legislature doesn’t fix the problem by 2012, business taxes will increase.

As it stands, the state paid an estimated $1.5 billion in unemployment benefits in 2008 and are averaging $43 million in payouts each week in 2009—on pace to exceed $2 billion by year’s end.

“This will get fixed. It’s been broken before. It will be fixed again,“ Doehrel said.

Local charity defends Gaza lab that Israel bombed
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 10:38 PM
An Arab charity based in the Columbus suburb of Dublin helped pay for a university laboratory building in Gaza that Israeli warplanes destroyed on Dec. 29.

The Israeli military said Hamas was using the building to develop explosives "under the auspices of university professors," according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

But Ishaq Y. Al-Qutub, director of the nonprofit Arab Student Aid International, said the attack has him surprised and concerned. He said Kamalia Shaath, the president of the Islamic University of Gaza, told him the building had not been used to make explosives.

"I asked him if there were any activities related to explosives and what the faculty members are producing in those labs," said Al-Qutub. "He emphatically said 'no let them come and prove it.' So far, there is no evidence of what this claim is all about. We're taking his word as trustworthy."

All of Arab Student Aid's funding - raised through donations from around the world - is used for education at 10 Arab universities, Al-Qutub said. To verify how the money is used, school administrators submit regular reports to Al-Qutub at his offices on Wilcox Place in Dublin.

Al-Qutub said Shaath confirmed that the laboratory building the university built six years ago using $425,000 in Arab Student Aid money was destroyed on Dec. 29.

Arab Student Aid provides interest-free loans and grants to needy and deserving students, according to its Web site. Since 1981, nearly 5,000 students have earned degrees, including about 2,000 who earned doctorates. The organization also supplies grants for infrastructure and equipment.

Born in Hebron in the West Bank and raised in Jerusalem, Al-Qutub received educational assistance from Rolla Foley, an Illinois Quaker who helped more than 30 Palestinian students receive their education in the 1950s and '60s. Al-Qutub earned a doctorate in sociology in 1966.

"We trust the universities, that they are employing these funds to expand or improve the facilities," he said. "We trust the words of the university presidents."

Yet he concedes that there is a possibility for abuse: "What goes on afterward we cannot really know."

Some student loans are never repaid because "it is difficult to locate the student" for a variety of reasons, according to footnotes in the association's financial statements.

Al-Qutub has been subjected to inflammatory remarks on blogs trying to link his charity to terrorism.

"There has been a serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what we do," he said, adding that they eventually will consider legal action.

When the group moved from New Jersey to Dublin three years ago, Al-Qutub let the FBI's Columbus office know what the charity does. FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas declined to comment. Dublin police have received no reports or complaints.

International law typically prohibits strikes on hospitals, churches or schools, unless there is evidence they are being used as military bases.

Even if Islamic University did produce weapons, that alone doesn't justify an Israeli attack, wrote Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"Weapon development and even manufacturing have, unfortunately, become major projects at universities worldwide - a fact that does not justify bombing them," they wrote.

Islamic University was established 30 years ago by the founder of Hamas, a group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. The University has about 18,000 students, more than half of them women.