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Republican Unity on Health Care Is Elusive, Despite Trump’s Support

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night buoyed House Republican leaders who were hopeful that his leadership would unite fractious lawmakers around a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. But fundamental disagreements still divide Republicans on one of the central promises of their 2016 campaigns: repealing the health law.

While Mr. Trump appeared to back a health plan being drawn up by Republican leaders, it became clear Wednesday that lawmakers were continuing to argue over its details. Republican senators emerged from a closed-door meeting on health care tight-lipped.

Some have balked at a proposal to require workers to pay taxes on particularly generous employer-provided health benefits. Some are worried about the future of Medicaid.

But the central dividing line appears to be over how the federal government would help people purchase health insurance.

House Republican leaders would offer to help people buy insurance on the free market with a tax credit that, for some low-income households, could exceed the amount they owe in federal income taxes.

Some of the most conservative Republicans say the tax credit should not be more than the amount of taxes consumers owe. If the government makes payments to people with little or no tax liability, they say, that would amount to a new entitlement program, replacing one kind of government largess from President Barack Obama with another from Mr. Trump.

“Coming in as a Republican president with a new federal entitlement program?” asked Representative Dave Brat, a conservative Republican from Virginia. “That’s your first big move? You would have politicians bidding up the cost, adding to the financial problems of other entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.”

After the president’s speech, aides to the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, crowed that they had the full backing of Mr. Trump for their health care plan.

But Mr. Trump was decidedly vague. He backed tax credits to buy insurance, but he did not clearly resolve the disagreement between Mr. Ryan and the most conservative Republicans.

“We should help Americans purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts,” Mr. Trump told a joint session of Congress.

The details of the tax credit could make a substantial difference to consumers. If a family is eligible for a $3,000 tax credit to buy insurance and owes $1,000 in federal income taxes, should it get only $1,000? Or should it get the full $3,000?

Most tax breaks reduce the amount owed to the government. A refundable tax credit can also result in payments from the government: If the credit exceeds a person’s tax liability, the government pays him or her the excess.

“I think refundable tax credits are just another word for subsidies,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.

Defenders of refundable tax credits say they are needed to make insurance affordable to people who pay little or no taxes.

“Otherwise, they’re useless,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, one of Mr. Trump’s top supporters in Congress. “What good’s a tax credit for folks who don’t pay taxes?”

In fact, for those who cannot pitch in much of their own income, even a refundable tax credit is not likely to be enough to pay for a health insurance policy, Democrats say. That is one reason the Republican alternative is not likely to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act.

At the meeting on Wednesday, several Republican senators expressed concern that the tax credit proposed by House leaders would be available even to people with high incomes who did not need federal assistance.

Earlier, Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and head of the Ways and Means Committee, said the credit would be a way to provide more equity in the tax code by creating a tax break for people who buy insurance on their own, similar to the break already available to people who get insurance through the workplace.

He predicted that Republicans would overcome their divisions.

“Rather than using his speech to divide Republicans,” Mr. Brady said, “it’s really an opportunity for us to sit down and work through what remaining differences there are, and I’m confident we can.”

Mr. Brady and another architect of the House plan, Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, huddled with Republican senators on Wednesday. But lawmakers left the meeting with many unanswered questions and were not ready to endorse the House plan.

The fractures among Republicans have been on display in the past few days. On Monday night, three senators — Mr. Paul, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas — posted on Twitter in support of what they called #FullRepeal.

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From left, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Dave Brat of Virginia oppose a refundable tax credit for health care. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

“If we fail to honor our commitment to repeal Obamacare, I believe the consequences would be, quite rightly, catastrophic,” Mr. Cruz said on Wednesday.

The leaders of two groups of House conservatives, the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, also came out against a draft of the health care legislation that became public during last week’s congressional recess. The groups have more than enough members to thwart House leaders’ plan if they are determined to do so.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, likened the leadership’s tax-credit proposal to the earned-income tax credit, which supplements the wages of low-income workers. There has been “a tremendous amount of improper payments” in that program, he said.

Other Republican skeptics include Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “There are other ways you can address that segment of the population,” Mr. Tillis said of the working poor with little or no income tax liability.

Some Republicans are also concerned about the possibility of requiring workers to pay taxes on the value of employer-sponsored coverage exceeding certain thresholds. Employers and labor unions strenuously oppose such a move, which would affect people in the most expensive health plans and is similar in purpose to a provision of the existing law. Both measures are designed to curb overuse of health care and to help pay for the broader measures.

“I don’t think it’d go over very good in the Senate,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said last week.

Then there is the issue of Medicaid. Lawmakers from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act face pressure back home — in some cases, from Republican governors — to oppose sharp cuts to the generous federal funding that those states are receiving.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, which has expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the health care law, said she wanted to be sure that her state could retain the expansion if its legislature wanted to do so.

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Despite détente with Israel, Turkey to host Hamas confab

Despite the recent thawing of ties between Israel and Turkey, Istanbul is set to play host this weekend to a well-attended conference whose speakers and organizers are either affiliated with Hamas or once held senior posts in the Palestinian terror group.

The Conference for Palestinians Abroad is named for the group organizing the event. It has faced vociferous criticism from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, who accuse the organizers of undermining the PLO’s position as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas’s military wing is one of the bodies publicizing the event, slated for Saturday and Sunday, which is also hosting among its speakers members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the leaders of the organizing group is Issam Moustafa Youssef, who the US Treasury Department has said was the head of Hamas’s political bureau at least until mid-2008.

Yousef, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, is currently a leader in the Interpal group, named a terror group by the US in 2003.

The event’s website presents a map of Israel with arrows pointing at the country and the caption “Our national plan — the path of our return.”

Other speakers include Majed a-Zir, who has been described in Egyptian media as “the regional director of Hamas in Europe.” He is officially a member of the “Palestinian Return Centre” in London, which Israel, at least, considers an illegal group.

Also on the list of speakers are media personalities such as Qatar-based Al-Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan and columnist Bashir Nafi, as well as Zaher Birawi, Rowan a-Damen, Ziad Aloul and others.

Hamas has held similar events not just in Turkey, but throughout Africa and Latin America. It uses the Muslim Brotherhood organizational infrastructures in those countries to organize the events, connect to activists, raise funds and engage in public relations worldwide.

Neo-Nazi rally held in Bulgarian capital despite municipal ban

Sofia

A metro sign in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jan. 31, 2016. (Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

(JTA) —  An annual neo-Nazi rally was held in the capital of Bulgaria despite a municipal ban.

The Lukov March, which celebrates the Bulgarian alliance with Nazi Germany, went off as scheduled on Saturday night in Sofia despite the ban issued by Mayor Yordanka Fandakova.

The rally honoring the then-Bulgarian war minister Hristo Lukov, who was head of the pro-Nazi Union of the Bulgarian National Legions, has been held each year since 2003. For the past three years, restrictions have been placed on the march.

“The very existence of this rally is a disgrace for a European capital which in less than a year will be hosting the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU,” said Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria.

The World Jewish Congress said Shalom over the 14 years of the march “has done everything in its power to sound the alarm against this dangerous manifestation of the same anti-Semitic expressions that brought about the near destruction of European Jewry.”

“And for 14 years, this march has been sanctioned despite all efforts to stop it, on the grounds that the marchers were careful not to exhibit overt Nazi, anti-Semitic or fascist symbols,” World Jewish Congress CEO, Robert Singer said in a statement.

“Regardless of what symbols are exhibited during rallies of these kinds, the intentions are clear, and the dangers ever-present,” he said, adding: “Let us not forget that when hate speech is sanctioned, hateful actions become all the harder to prevent.”

GROUP OF NFL PLAYERS (NIGGERS) STILL EN ROUTE TO ISRAEL DESPITE SOME WITHDRAWALS

The Israel tour arranged for a group of NFL players will go ahead as planned starting from Monday despite the publicized pull-outs of several of its original participants.

Three of the NFL players who were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday as part of a campaign to showcase the country’s “true face” to the world pulled out of the trip, explaining that they do not want to be “used” by the Israeli government.

 

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett led the boycott, being joined by brother Martellus, who won the Super Bowl with New England last week, and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which arranged the trip in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry, is going ahead with the tour, which includes visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Christian sites.

Bennett’s decision came on the heels of an open letter by renowned musicians, artists and social justice advocates released Thursday asking the NFL players “to consider withdrawing from the delegation given Israel’s track record of human rights abuses.”

Bennett wrote the following via Twitter and Instagram on Friday night: “I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in the Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’ I will not be used in such a manner. When I do go to Israel – and I do plan to go – it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

Bennett further cited boxing legend Muhammad Ali and that Ali “stood strongly with the Palestinian people” and wrote “I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel” and that he was making the decision “to be in accord with my own values and my own conscience.”

The letter to NFL players Thursday urged them “to consider the political ramifications of attending the trip, drawing connections between the struggles faced by Black and Brown communities in the US, and Palestinian, Eritrean and Sudanese communities in Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

The letter was signed by entertainer and activists Harry Belafonte, activist Angela Davis, actor Danny Glover and former sprinter John Carlos, among others, and co-signed by organizations that included the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Other players listed as part of the delegation are Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Michael Kendricks, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett and former linebacker Kirk Morrison.

The trip is also scheduled to include a meet-and-greet event on February 18th in Jerusalem (NOT an exhibition game, as had initially been reported) featuring the NFL delegation and players from the American Football in Israel federation and the Kraft Family Israel Football League.

Betsy DeVos Confirmed Despite Massive Protests

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is an outrageous insult to the millions of people who send their children to public schools, to the millions of students who attend public schools, to the millions of educators who work in public schools, and to the millions of people–like me–who graduated from public school.

As expected, the vote was 50-50, and Vice President Pence was called in to cast the tie-breaking vote.

She was never a student, a parent, an educator or school board member of public schools. It is her life’s work to tear down public education. She does not respect the line of separation between church and state. She supports for-profit charter schools.

She is ignorant of federal law, federal programs, and federal policy. When asked at her Senate hearing about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, she did not know it was a federal law. She had given no thought to lessening the burden of debt that college students bear, which now exceeds $1 trillion. At a time when the federal role in aiding students with the high cost of college needs to be redesigned, she knows nothing about it.

As the ethics counselors for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama pointed out, DeVos has financial conflicts of interest which she refuses to divest. She told the Senate committee that she had no role in her mother’s foundation, which has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, but her name appears on 17 years of the foundation’s audited tax returns. She told the committee that online charter corporations produce stellar results, but researchers demonstrated with facts that she was wrong.

Choice policies in Michigan have caused the test scores in that state to decline. Detroit, overrun with charters and choice, is a chaotic mess.

It is a sad day for American public education when a person who has repeatedly expressed contempt for public schools is confirmed as Secretary of Education.

But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. Her obvious lack of qualification for the job has created a maelstrom of protest against her. Senators report that they have never received so much feedback about a cabinet nominee, overwhelmingly negative. Telephone lines were jammed, in some offices, shut down.

The DeVos nomination awakened parents and educators to the dangers of privatization. She personifies the privatization movement. She is the leader of the Billionaire Girls Club, spreading her millions across the land to reward and enrich allies in Congress, on state and local school boards, and in any setting where she could tout school choice as a magical remedy for poor performance. Charters and vouchers, whether for profit or nonprofit, is her sole idea. She has singlehandedly stripped bare the “reform” movement, showing it to be not a civil rights movement but a privatization movement funded by billionaires and religious zealots.

About half the Republican Senators have received substantial campaign contributions from the DeVos family. How else to explain their determination to confirm her regardless of mass protests against her. Hers is the first Senate confirmation vote in history that required the intervention of the Vice President to supply a tie-breaking vote. She enters office with no reservoir of public trust.

Strange as it may seem, the confirmation of DeVos is a victory for those who spoke out against her. We joined with many organizations–People for the American Way, the ACLU, and many more–to say NO. The response was overwhelming. The Network for Public Education generated well over half a million emails.

For those of us fighting back against privatization, Betsy DeVos was a great tool for organizing and mobilizing and informing the public. Had there been one courageous Republican, had DeVos been defeated, Trump would have found another privatizer. And the fight would have started over.

She created the informed public we need to build a strong movement against privatization.

Consider this article that appeared in the Washington Post. The author describes herself as someone who was never interested in politics. Having learned about DeVos, the writer became a political activist.

This is the spirit we need to continue the fight for the future of public schools in America.

Playing The Victim: Whoopi Goldberg (Nigger) Calls Herself A “Slave” Despite Making $5 Million A Year On The View…

Million Dollar Slave

Born Caryn Johnson, and co-host of the View, Whoopi Goldberg has decided that being paid $5 million dollars per year to appear on a daytime talk show in which she prattles on about current events in front of a studio audience is tantamount to working in the cotton fields of the South during the time when the Democratic Party was still fighting to maintain slavery.

Sources close to the Daily Mail have reported that Goldberg’s beliefs erupted in an unprofessional manner when she found out that the ABC executives were considering renewing her contract at a lesser amount of ONLY $2 million a year. That salary is clearly a disgrace, and only 40 times larger than that of a police officer or school teacher. Sources claim that Goldberg began marching up and down the halls declaring,

“I’S A WORK FOR ABC WHO IS MY MASTER. I’S A SLAVE TO ABC. IT’S 12 YEARS A WHOOPI AT ABC.”

The comments made the rest of the staff members uncomfortable, but the Oscar winning actress didn’t stop there,

“I’S JUST A N****R FOLLOWING ORDERS AROUND HERE, MASTER!”

To add to the turmoil over contract negotiations, Goldberg has also allegedly butted heads with the View’s new consulting producer Candi Carter, who had the nerve to move the Hot Topics meeting from 9am to 8:30am. That’s a full thirty minutes of extra work that Carter would be asking Whoopi to take on to earn her multi million dollar salary. Goldberg made it clear that she was upset and would not be giving in to the obvious slave-master-like demands that would require her to come in early.

“I’M CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED TO BE HERE AT 9AM AND YOU WON’T SEE ME A MINUTE EARLIER.”

Goldberg must be correct that she is being treated like a slave, only I am having a difficult time finding any references or accounts that tell the story of any slave in America’s distant past in which a slave owner was asked to go to work a half hour early, participate in the strenusous activity of chit-chat, and during the course of the year, being compensated with millions of dollars.

Perhaps Whoopi is referring to a new kind of slavery that nobody knows about yet.

Haifa residents say Arab-Jewish relations remain strong, despite arson accusations

As the flames that overtook sections of Haifa largely settled by Sunday, residents were left with accusations that Arab-led arson attacks were the cause – threatening the Arab-Jewish coexistence for which the coastal city has become world-renowned.

Speaking in Haifa on Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are facing the terror of arsonists,” as Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted,“Only he to whom the land doesn’t belong is capable of burning it.”

Yet Haifa residents who spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday said that such accusations were brought in by outsiders  and foreign to Haifa.

“We think that the ones that are trying to gain politically from these accusations are the ones talking about incitement,” said Hadash Party secretary in Haifa, Raja Zaatry. “In Haifa the business of racism and incitement does not run well,” said Zaatry, who accused Netanyahu and right-wing MKs of seeking to stoke ethnic tension.

“It is the same as usual, before and after the fire we still say ‘Hi’ in the morning,” said Tidhar Teucher, 40, owner of Fasel cafe on Masada Street. The cafe’s location is a mecca for Haifa’s hip artists, activists, and college students – both Jewish and Arab.

“I think that if this happened in any other place, in Jerusalem for example, the atmosphere would have been much different,” said Zaatry. “We are happy that the coexistence can survive incidents such as these.”

Jewish-Arab relations in Haifa have withstood the test of time, according to Itamar Radai, research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center and academic director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation.

“It is too early to estimate the repercussions [of the recent arson accusations], but we can say from the past that the relations have known some serious tests, like the second intifada,” Radai said. “And so far they have remained the same until now.”

Haifa resident Ronen Zeidel lives in the mixed Jewish-Arab Hadar neighborhood and teaches Iraqi history at Haifa University.

“Of course there were discussions and some people were expressing anti-Arab views. There are also anti-Arab feelings here in Haifa,” said Ziedel. “But I don’t think this will effect Haifa. The only thing that will effect Haifa residents is how much they get paid by the government for their [burned and damaged] residences.”

Nevertheless, in Haifa as elsewhere, some people break the mold.

“Two days ago I was at the supermarket and I heard a very anti-Arab speech from the manager, and he didn’t even welcome the Palestinian firefighters,” said Zeidel, “However, I discovered the man’s name was Imad – he was 100% Arab and he was speaking like a Likud supporter – these things happen in Haifa.”

U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

Supporters of Mrs. Clinton have enthusiastically backed the notion of challenging the results in the three states as a last-ditch effort to reverse Mr. Trump’s clear majority in the Electoral College. They have seized on suggestions by some computer scientists that the states, which were crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory, need to manually review paper ballots to ensure the election was not hacked.

The campaign, uniting around the hashtag #AuditTheVote, has picked up momentum among grass-roots activists still mourning Mr. Trump’s victory. But the pleas for recounts have gained no support from the Clinton campaign, which has concluded that it is highly unlikely to change the outcome.

In Michigan, Ms. Stein must wait for a Monday meeting of the state’s Board of Canvassers to certify the results of the Nov. 8 balloting before filing for a recount. In Pennsylvania, where paper ballots are used only in some areas, election officials said that the deadline to petition for a recount had passed, but that a candidate could challenge the result in court before a Monday deadline.

The recount efforts have generated pushback by experts who said it would be enormously difficult to hack voting machines on a large scale. The administration, in its statement, confirmed reports from the Department of Homeland Security and intelligence officials that they did not see “any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day.”

The administration said it remained “confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out.” It added: “As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”

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Emails of John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, were leaked after Russian government-directed hacking. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

However, intelligence officials are still investigating the impact of a broader Russian “information warfare” campaign, in which fake news about Mrs. Clinton, and about United States-Russia relations, appeared intended to influence voters. Many of those false reports originated from RT News and Sputnik, two state-funded Russian sites.

Those fake-news reports were widely circulated on social media, independent studies, including one set for release soon, have shown, sometimes in an organized fashion by groups that appear to have had common ownership. Individuals, conservative talk-show hosts and activists recirculated them, often not knowing, or apparently not caring, about the accuracy of the reports.

But the misinformation effort is far from black-and-white. Many people who spread false news have no connections to any foreign power, including a man in Austin, Tex., who posted a Twitter message saying that paid protesters were being bused to an anti-Trump demonstration there. Though the report quickly went viral, the buses, it turned out, were there for a corporate conference.

Other examples, including one studied by a group called Propaganda or Not and first cited by The Washington Post, appear to have more concrete connections to Russia. In late August, stories suggesting that Mrs. Clinton might have Parkinson’s disease were circulated on trupundit.com, which often runs pro-Russian material. It clearly twisted an email sent by one of Mrs. Clinton’s top aides about a drug called Provigil that is used to treat sleepiness. It has also been prescribed to patients with sleepiness as a side effect from several different ailments, the email added, including “Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.”

That single reference was enough to create a fake story suggesting that Mrs. Clinton was being treated for Parkinson’s.

The allegation was quickly shot down by several news organizations. It made little difference: Propaganda or Not, made up of former national security, intelligence and other professionals, and some workers at Google and other technology firms, concluded that it was reproduced tens of thousands of times, sometimes by botnets, and viewed millions of times.

But it is not known whether that news was circulated under Russian government direction, or simply by Russian sympathizers, or Mrs. Clinton’s opponents.

The barrage of online efforts to influence the election this year has prompted broader concerns that similar attempts, directed by the Kremlin or its surrogates, could now be focused on elections next year in Germany and France. The goal, intelligence officials and outside experts fear, is to undermine the cohesiveness of the Western alliance, particularly NATO members, by calling into question the validity of democratic elections.

“We simply don’t know what the effects of the ‘fake news’ and other disinformation was,” said Jason Healey, an expert on cyberconflict at Columbia University. “If they were able to influence in favor of Trump by one or two percentage points in some places, they will be encouraged to try again for the French and the Germans.”

The efforts have also prompted debate inside Facebook and other social media firms about their responsibility to filter out false news. But doing so is a complex task, akin to editing a news operation, and it comes with complex political calculations: Once social media firms begin editing here to American standards, they will be under pressure from authoritarian regimes to do the same to their standards.

In its statement, the administration focused chiefly on the threat of Russian manipulation of the vote on Election Day, not on the proliferation of propaganda and fake news.

Ms. Stein, of the Green Party, acknowledged on Thursday in an interview with the PBS “NewsHour” that it was unlikely that recounts could change the results. Still, she said that “this was an election in which we saw hacking all over the place,” and that “at the same time, we have a voting system which has been proven to basically be wide open to hackers.”

Despite US veto, resolution condeming Nazi ‘glorification’ passes UN committee vote

Despite the United States voting against it, a resolution that condemns the glorification of Nazis passed a UN General Assembly committee vote Thursday night, according to Russian News Agency Tass.

The UN Social, Humanitarianism and Culture committee passed the vote, 131 states voted in favor, while 48 states abstained, most of which were European Union countries.

The United States, Ukraine and a Palau- a small Island country in the Pacific, were the only three to vote against the resolution.

Anatoly Viktorov, the Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights spoke, stressing the importance of the resolution.

Viktorov stated that there are countries that have made “national heros” out of pro-Nazi forces.

The resolution speaks of the concern in the “glorification” of the Nazi movement and of neo-Nazism such as the erecting of monuments or memorials and public demonstrations that glorify anything to do with the Nazi and neo-Nazi movement.

Co-authored by 55 states including Russia, the resolution is set to be brought to the UN General Assembly by the end of the year.

The vote, which happens for the same resolution annually, was vetoed by the US in 2014 and 2015 as well.

In 2014 Terri Robl, who was at the time the US deputy representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, explained her opposition to the resolution, stating that the Russian government had thrown around terms such as Nazi and fascist for its own political ends.

“We believe Russia’s efforts at the General Assembly, via this resolution, are aimed at its opponents, rather than at promoting or protecting human rights,” she said.

NY hassidic village (Kikes) loyal to Clinton despite Trump popularity among ultra-Orthodox (Kikes)

NEW YORK – Back in 2000, when she was running to represent New York in the Senate, Hillary Clinton benefited from the almost unanimous vote of one small Jewish hassidic village in Rockland County called New Square.

This week, running for president, Clinton is once again expected to be the favorite of New Square – a town comprised mostly of Skver Hassidim – whose loyalty runs counter to the prevailing trend of the American Jewish community. While overall support among American Jews traditionally leans Democratic in presidential elections, polls have shown that when it comes to Orthodox voters, the tendency is reversed.

According to the famous 2013 Pew Research Center study on American Jewry, 57% of Orthodox Jewish voters are Republican or lean Republican, and only 36% are Democrats or lean Democratic.

More recently, an American Jewish Committee survey published in September showed 50% of Orthodox respondents prefer Donald Trump, and only 21% side with Clinton.

CEO of the public affairs consulting firm The Friedlander Group, Ezra Friedlander, an Orthodox Jew himself who has accompanied many presidential candidates in visits to the community this year, is familiar with the community in New Square.

A day before the election, Friedlander told The Jerusalem Post that he believes the local Skver hassidic community, like the Satmar Hassidim who have already endorsed her, will cast its vote for Clinton because of their long-time ties.

“The hassidic community has a relationship with Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“She was the senator from New York for eight years, so she knows the community. Donald Trump, by comparison, although he is from New York, never interacted with the Jewish community, let alone the hassidic community. He never really took the time to understand that community. He could be proud of the fact that his daughter is Jewish, but to present that as making the case is insulting in a way.”

But Clinton’s’ relationship with the hassidic community in New Square, some 50 kilometers north of Manhattan, has been in the public eye before she was even contemplating a presidential run.

In 1999, four residents of New Square – Kalmen Stern, David Goldstein, Benjamin Berger and Jacob Elbaum – were convicted of bilking the US government of tens of millions of dollars. They were all sentenced to between two and six years in prison.

Two years later in January 2001, then president Bill Clinton decided to shorten the prison terms of the group – nicknamed the New Square Four – as he was about to leave office.

The decision raised many questions whether the clemency was granted in exchange for votes in favor of Hillary Clinton, who had just won her Senate seat two months earlier.

This was especially suspicious since Clinton and her husband had met with leaders of the New Square community during her campaign, and on Election Day, the hassidic village voted almost unanimously for Hillary Clinton.

An investigation was opened into that clemency and over a hundred other pardons granted by President Clinton during his term, but no charges were filed. Overseeing the case was then US attorney for the Southern District of New York James Comey, who now serves as FBI director and has investigated Hillary Clinton’s email scandal in recent weeks.

“It’s a community comprised of God-fearing Jews who yearn to worship and raise their families in the tradition of their forebears,” Ezra Friedlander told the Post. “Like all communities, you have individuals and leaders who are involved and you have people who are less involved and go about their daily lives without giving it a thought.

Then again, I believe they are aware of the election, and I hope they’ll go and vote. When you’re part of a community, and if you’re on the lower socioeconomic level, then you are worried about making ends meet. You want to have a social safety net, or you are worried about antisemitism, the safety of the world, the commitment to Israel-US relationship. These are all issues that concern all members of the hassidic community, and it’s a concern to the New Square community as well.”

Beyond New Square, Friedlander said, the hassidic vote is much more complex than some of the candidates he has met during the campaign realize.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Friedlander said. “You cannot come into the hassidic or Orthodox community, say ‘I love Israel’ and sing ‘Hava Nagila’ with a nice black yarmulka and think you are gonna pick up the entire vote. People want more nuanced positions, people are afraid, people are worried, people cannot make ends meet.”

New Square Mayor Izzy Spitzer, who refused requests to be interviewed by the Post, reportedly sat in on the 2000 meetings with Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with the Skver Grand Rabbi David Twersky, during which it was alleged that clemency for the New Square Four was discussed.

New Square in New York is an ultrastrict community of hassidic rule: the town has gender segregated sidewalks, women from the community are not allowed to drive, people can only use “kosher cellphones” with web filtering, and women are banned from using smartphones altogether.

Author Shulem Deen, who was expelled from the Skver community at age 30 some 10 years ago, explained that when voting, New Square residents’ main concerns are very practical: making a living and sustain their families.

“One of the things that characterizes this community is that they emphasize large families and the importance of Torah study,” Deen said.

This, he said, means that women are busy taking care of children and the household, and the men tend to have very meager secular education, which allows them to have only lowskill jobs. The result is that one of the main sources of support and revenue for New Square families is government assistance.

“So one of the cornerstones of their economic system is being on really cozy terms with elected officials, in order to get whatever you can get from the government,” Deen said. “This leads them to emphasize the importance of votes, and they don’t really consider the personal politics or the identity issues in the politician.

“One of the things you’ll never hear someone in New Square talk about is an elected official being gay, or an elected official being pro-abortion or something like that,” he added. “They don’t care about the issues that other Americans care about. They have very narrow interests, and so they vote based on those interests.

“I don’t say that as a judgment,” Deen said. “This is simply how they work their system. If there is a woman in government, that doesn’t bother them in the least, because that woman is not a woman from their community, and they don’t require the world to live as they live. The important thing for them is that it’s a candidate who supports their interests.”

Deen said he remembers the time Clinton came to New Square during her senate run in 2000, and how she held a women-only rally in town before meeting with the rebbe of New Square.

“There was a lot of talk then of whether there was a quid pro quo,” he said.

“It was pretty clear to me at the time that the New Square community tried to win her favor, and she wanted to win their support. They got what they wanted, and she got what she wanted. Whether that was explicit or not, it’s pretty clear that it was an arrangement that worked for both of them.”

In general, Deen told the Post, the hassidic community tends to align with the candidate that is most likely to win.

“They don’t want to be betting on a losing horse because they need that horse’s support after,” he said. “Typically, if there was a clear front-runner, they went for the front-runner.”

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