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posted on 28 January 2017

Early Headlines: Source Of Illegal Votes Data, Employer Provided Ins. May Suffer, Trump's Refugee Turmoil And Conflicts, Iraq U.S. Helpers Cut Off, Reset With Russia And More

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Early Bird Headlines 28 January 2017

Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.

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U.S.

  • Gregg Phillips: The man claiming 3m illegal votes (BBC News) The evidencce that President Trump has that non-citizen or otherwise illegal votes were cast in November is a relaible source: A tweet. Donald Trump and his aides say that between three and five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. One man has emerged as the originator of that claim: Gregg Phillips. On Friday morning, President Trump's first tweet of the day read:

"Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!"

  • Cadillac plan tax math may shape ACA attack (LifeHealthPro) A benefits compliance specialist says he thinks the current Affordable Care Act battle could threaten the federal income tax exclusion for employer-sponsored group health premiums. Edward Fensholt, a lawyer who tracks the ACA for Kansas City, Missouri-based Lockton Companies, said today in an email interview that the group health tax exclusion is in trouble because cutting it would be a way to free up the federal budget power to pay for repealing ACA revenue-raising provisions. Econintersect: When will our government stop being obsessed with how the government will "pay" for something and focus on improving systemic efficiency?

  • McConnell all but rules out filibuster change (The Hill) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday all but ruled out the possibility of a change to the filibuster rule this year. McConnell made his comment in an interview with The Hill one day after President Trump said he wants Senate Republicans to strip Democrats of the power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees if they attempt to block his pick.

  • State Dept web page on refugees disappears (The Hill) Two web pages, one titled "Myths and Facts on Refugees, Migration, and Humanitarian Assistance," and the other "Myths and Facts: Resettling Syrian Refugees," had been removed as of Friday, though the exact timing of when they were taken down is unclear.

  • Trump signs 'extreme vetting' order (BBC News) US President Donald Trump has announced new vetting measures to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the US". He signed a wide-ranging executive order which, among other measures, bans Syrian refugees until further notice. It also put a cap of 50,000 refugees entering the US in 2017 - less than half the previous upper limit. The order includes, in addition to Syria, a 90-day suspension on arrivals from Iraq and "areas of concern" - reported to include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. See next four articles.

  • Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Illegal (The New York Times) David J. Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, writes:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotas. In signing the new law, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that “the harsh injustice" of the national-origins quota system had been “abolished."

  • Following President Trump’s executive order green card, visa holders already blocked by airports (Daily News) Within hours of President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from Muslim countries, green card and visa holders were already being blocked from getting on flights to the U.S. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee said people who had already landed were being sequestered at airports and told they have to return to their point of origin. The Department of Homeland Security issued a directive at 4:30 p.m. ordering the Customs and Border Patrol to enforce the executive order.

  • Trump’s Immigration Ban Excludes Countries With Business Ties (Bloomberg) President Trump has signed an executive order that bans citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East from entering the United States for 90 days, according to the White House. His proposed list doesn’t include Muslim-majority countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Properties include golf courses in the United Arab Emirates and two luxury towers operating in Turkey.

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UK

Theresa May’s highly anticipated speech on 17 January showed that slowly but surely, the UK government is realising the constraints of global trade rules. At last, the aims regarding future relations with the EU are becoming clear: Britain will leave the single market, end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK, set its own tariffs, but also seek a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU.

Negotiating a free trade agreement according to Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) has considerable advantages over the nebulous plans ministers have floated before, not least that it is a coherent strategy. It is also an obvious position that best serves the UK’s interests, and that many observers, including myself, hoped the UK government would assume once one of the best British qualities - being able to keep a cool head under fire - reasserted itself.

Iraq

  • Trump refugee order dashes hopes of Iraqis who helped the U.S. (Reuters) Iraqis who say their lives are in danger because they worked with the U.S. government in Iraq fear their chances of finding refuge in the United States may vanish under a new order signed on Friday by President Donald Trump. The order temporarily suspends the United States' main refugee program and halts visas being issued to citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq. It is expected to affect two programs U.S. lawmakers created a few years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to help the tens of thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives helping Americans.

Trump says the order is necessary to prevent Islamist militants from coming to the United States posing as refugees, but refugee advocacy groups say the lengthy screening of applicants by multiple U.S. agencies makes this fear unfounded.

Iraqis coming to the United States under the Special Immigrant Visa program for Iraqis, which stopped accepting new applications in 2014, or the ongoing Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis are losing hope of ever getting out.

Russia

The Trump administration is set to make a new effort to build bridges. Trump proposes a “deal" to lift Western sanctions on Russia in exchange for an agreed reduction in nuclear stockpiles. This would be a good confidence-boosting start.

There are at least three positives to build on. First, Putin’s foreign-policy coups, while opportunistic, have been cautious. He talks big, but respects his limits. Having made his point in Georgia and Ukraine, he drew back. He is a gambler, but not for the highest stakes.

Second, the Russian thesis of “multipolarity" offers much to international relations. With American power on the wane and China’s on the rise, a restructuring of international relations is inevitable. The rules of the game forged in the era of US supremacy will have to be revised to accommodate different interests and perceptions. Russia could play a constructive role in this revision, if it does not overestimate its strength.

Finally, Russia has shown - on the nuclear deal with Iran and the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons - that it can work with the US to advance common interests. And, in my view, Putin’s “realism" in providing military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is preferable to futile Western efforts to orchestrate a “political settlement." If successful, millions of refugees may be able to return to their homes.

The conflict of values between the two sides will continue. But, provided the West treats Russia and its concerns with respect, there is no reason why a much better working relationship cannot be established.

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