Kentucky teachers rally over retirement cuts, warn of strike
Hundreds of teachers in central Kentucky have rallied in front of public schools to protest proposed cuts to their retirement benefits in what could be a precursor to a statewide strike. Kentucky state Senators on Wednesday took the first step toward passing a bill they say would save taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next 20 years and stabilize one of the country's worst-funded public pension systems.But most of those savings would come from a 33 percent cut to the annual cost-of-living raises for retired teachers, who aren't eligible for Social Security benefits.
ROME — The United Nations received pledges Thursday of nearly $100 million in new funding for the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians after the U.S. slashed its aid, but it is still facing a nearly $350 million shortfall this year.
Jet-lagged Gatlin flops in fourth on maiden South Africa visit
World 100m champion Justin Gatlin tasted defeat on his first visit to South Africa with home sprinter Anaso Jobodwana beating him in the rarely run 150m at the Athletix Grand Prix meeting in Pretoria on Thursday. “My coach said to focus on the first 100 metres and that is what I wanted to do to just get out there and put together a good race over the first 100m and try to work on my form over the last 50 metres,” said Gatlin, who crossed the line in fourth place. “I was supposed to open my season in May but I had to jump at the opportunity to be able to race here in South Africa and it is a special time for me.
A dozen countries announced new funding during an emergency donor conference called as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency experiences the worst funding crisis in its 68-year history. Stepping up were Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France, U.N. officials said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said "an important first step was reached" with the new pledges. But he said "a long way is in front of us" to fully fund the agency, which went into the conference facing a $446 million gap in financing this year after the U.S., which has provided a third of the agency's budget, announced it was withholding aid.
"If UNRWA would not exist, if these services were not provided, the security of region would be severely undermined," Guterres told reporters. "Now it is very clear, it is absolutely essential, that the extraordinary unanimity in political support to UNRWA and its activities translates itself into cash."
Many Americans Still Aren’t Seeing GOP Tax Cuts in Their Paychecks
Some new polls out this week suggest that the GOP tax cuts aren’t making much of difference to many Americans. Half the respondents in a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted between March 1 and March 5 said they haven’t seen an increase in their paychecks, while just 27 percent have. A Gallup poll conducted between February 26 and March 4 found that 64 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a change in their take-home pay, while 32 percent have. And support for the bill seems to be leveling off, with 46 percent of the Politico/Morning Consult respondents saying they support the bill and 36 percent saying they disapprove, basically unchanged from two weeks ago. While Gallup did detect an increase in support – 39 percent, up from 33 percent in January – a larger percentage disapprove at 48 percent. It may be that the tax cuts are too small for the average wage earner to notice, much to the disappointment of Republicans who were counting on a political boost from the legislation. A story in The New York Times Wednesday suggests that some voters, especially blue-collar workers, may just be a bit underwhelmed by the size of the cuts. A machine shop worker from Dayton, Ohio, told the Times he was seeing about $30 more a week in his paycheck, but made it clear that the money was relatively small potatoes: “It’s just a little extra money I can count on. It’s not going to change my life.” Like what you're reading? Sign up for our free newsletter .
The agency, the oldest and largest U.N. relief program in the Middle East, provides health care, education and social services to an estimated 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel's establishment in 1948.
Guterres told the conference that cutting sanitation, health care and medical services in already poverty-wracked and conflict-ridden areas "would have severe impact — a cascade of problems that could push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions."
The Trump administration announced in January it was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. It released $60 million so the agency wouldn't shut down but made clear that additional U.S. donations would be contingent on major reforms at the agency.
Palestinian PM safe in Gaza after explosion near convoy - live TV
An explosion occurred on a Gaza road shortly after a convoy carrying Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah passed by on Tuesday, a border official said, but live television showed he was unhurt and attending a scheduled event.Minutes after the blast, Hamdallah, appearing unhurt, delivered a speech at the inauguration of a waste treatment plant in the Gaza Strip, live TV footage showed. He said in the address that three cars were damaged.
Agency spokesman Christopher Gunness said the actual cut was around $300 million because the U.S. had led the agency to believe it would provide $365 million in 2018. He said the agency went into 2018 with a $146 million shortfall that ballooned to $446 million without the anticipated U.S. funds.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who co-hosted the meeting with Jordan and Sweden, was hopeful the U.S. would continue to support the agency and the creation of a viable Palestinian state that can care for its own people.
"We recognize the important contributions of the United States in the past and look forward that it continues to play its fundamental role in support of UNRWA and in also support of the peace process to enable the establishment of the Palestinian state," he said.
The U.S. had been UNWRA's largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its budget. In announcing the cuts in January, the U.S. State Department said it wanted reforms at the agency, which Israel has strongly criticized.
Shoukry said the agency had already streamlined some of its activities but said "there is a limit to its ability to do so" given the enormous needs faced by 5 million people.
"It is vital and it is necessary to address these very basic services, but also to provide dignity for multitudes of Palestinians and to (protect) many of them from the potential threats of radicalization and terrorism," he told reporters.
Hamas kills man wanted in attack on Palestinian PM .
<p>A man wanted for a bombing that targeted the Palestinian premier's convoy as he visited Gaza last week was killed in a firefight Thursday with Hamas forces.</p>The Interior Ministry in Gaza said the suspect, Anas Abu Khousa, 26, refused to surrender when Hamas surrounded his hideout. It said Abu Khousa was killed in the exchange of fire along with two Hamas policemen. Another suspect later died of his wounds at a hospital, it said.