Armed Arab Who Attacked Border Policeman Shot & Wounded

February 6th, 2015

mishBorder police near Ma’aras HaMachpelah on Thursday afternoon 16 Shevat detained a suspicious 19-year-old Arab male from Hebron who was found to be carrying a box cutter.

The suspect was taken to the area police station. During questioning he requested something to eat. As officers were getting him something he attacked one of them and tried to wrestle his weapon from him as he shouted “Ala Akbar”. A second officer turned and realized what was taking place. He chambered a bullet while the attacker continued efforts to grab the handgun from the first officer. He then fired a single shot at the attacker’s lower body. The suspect was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

A probe of his past revealed he was arrested in the past for entering the Machpelah with a knife.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Your Info Has Been Hacked. Here’s What You Should Do

February 5th, 2015

hackHackers have stolen personal information from tens of millions of people with Anthem health insurance. The nation’s second-largest health insurer, formerly known as WellPoint, said hackers stole Social Security numbers, names, birthdates, email addresses, employment details, incomes and street addresses of people who are currently covered or had coverage in the past.

The Anthem hack adds to massive data breaches at JPMorgan, Sony Pictures, Target and Home Depot in the past 18 months. Whether shopping, banking or going to the hospital, Americans are mostly at the mercy of companies to keep their sensitive details safe. But here’s what you can do if your information was stolen.


— Notify the credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and request a 90-day credit alert. (Each reporting agency is supposed to notify the others, but you may want to contact all three yourself.) The alert tells businesses to contact you before opening any new accounts in your name. You can renew the alert every 90 days, or you’re entitled to keep it in effect for seven years if you find that your identity is stolen and file a report with police.

— You might consider asking the reporting agencies to place a full freeze on your credit. This blocks any business from checking your credit to open a new account, so it’s a stronger measure than a credit alert. BUT you should weigh that against the hassle of notifying credit agencies to lift the freeze — which can take a few days — every time you apply for a loan, open a new account or even sign up for utility service.


— When your credit card bill comes, check closely for any irregularities. And don’t overlook small charges. Crooks are known to charge smaller amounts, usually under $10, to see if you notice. If you don’t, they may charge larger amounts later.

— Get a free credit report once a year from at least one of the major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), and review it for unauthorized accounts. Ignore services that charge a fee for credit reports. You can order them without charge at . If you order from each agency once a year, you could effectively check your history every four months.


— Some experts say there’s not much to be gained from a paid credit monitoring service. But it can’t hurt to sign up for any monitoring Anthem or any other hacked business offers for free. NOTE: These services will tell you if a new account is opened in your name, but they won’t prevent it, and many don’t check for things like bogus cellphone accounts, fraudulent applications for government benefits or claims for medical benefits. Some do offer limited insurance or help from a staffer trained to work with credit issuers and reporting agencies.


— Contact the credit issuer to dispute fraudulent charges and have the bogus account closed.

— Request your credit report and ask the reporting agencies to remove bogus accounts or any incorrect information from your record. See tip #1 on setting up a credit alert and/or freeze.

— Submit a report through the FTC website: Click the “privacy & identity” tab, which will walk you through creating an affidavit you can show to creditors.

— Keep copies of all reports and correspondence. Use certified mail to get delivery receipts, and keep notes on every phone call.


— After a hack, scammers may try to use the stolen data to trick you into giving up more personal information. They can use that info to steal money in your accounts or open new credit card.

— Don’t click on any links from emails. Bad software could be downloaded to your computer that can steal account passwords.

— You might get letters in the mail saying you won a tablet or vacation and give you a phone number to call. Don’t do it. It’s likely a ploy to gather more information from you.

— Hang up the phone if you get a call asking for account numbers or other information. Scammers may also send texts, so don’t click on any links from numbers you don’t know.


Work Dispute Declared at Hadassah

February 5th, 2015

hadJust six months into the fiscal rehabilitation plan, doctors at Hadassah Hospitals have declared a ‘work dispute’, clearing the way for a strike in two weeks. The work sanctions declaration is approved by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and the doctors’ union at Hadassah.

One of the issues at hand is Hadassah’s refusal to commit to fully backing doctors who face negligence lawsuits including legal representation. The sides have also reached a dead end regarding efforts to sign a collective agreement.

Head of the IMA Dr. Leonid Edelman insists physicians are doing their utmost to resolve differences and assist the medical organization in its fiscal recovery plan. He accuses the directors at Hadassah of “foot dragging” and failing to show professionalism in talks towards settling issues. He warns if the hospital does not respond appropriately the doctors will be compelled to strike.

Hadassah officials insist doctors have malpractice insurance for any services they perform in the hospitals. The fiscal rehab program also includes placing funds in escrow in the event the medical organization cannot pay out a claim and these funds are being held in a special account as required. Officials add that Hadassah officials and the board of directors and the State of Israel stand behind this. Officials report significant progress has been made in talks, contradicting statements by Dr. Edelman.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

GOP Governors With 2016 Aspirations Love to Bash Washington

February 5th, 2015

2016As they begin to shape their prospective bids for president, a group of ambitious Republican governors are eager to seize on voters’ contempt for that most dirty of political words: “Washington.”

“As much as I like coming here, I love going home even more,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said during a recent speech delivered just a block from the White House.

Yet those same governors, even as they profess to loathe the nation’s capital, have become regular Washington visitors. They come to woo veteran policy advisers, experienced operatives and savvy donors that would serve as the backbone of their nascent White House campaigns. Walker and at least three others — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — have been in town in the past week alone.

“If you want to participate at the federal level, you have to be here in Washington,” said Adam Brandon, executive vice president of libertarian-leaning lobbying group FreedomWorks.

Pence’s visit started this week with a closed-door fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association and private meetings with former colleagues in Congress. He then went on to publicly jab Washington while testifying before a House committee.

“I would say, with the deepest respect to my former colleagues, that I am persuaded, having spent 12 years in Congress and two years as a governor, that the cure for what ails this country will come as much from our nation’s state capitals as it ever will from our nation’s capital,” Pence told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Pence was more aggressive in a brief interview, charging that Washington leaders seem “incapable of solving” major problems.

“There’s an appetite out there for a contrast between Washington and the states,” said Pete Seat, an Indiana-based Republican strategist who worked in President George W. Bush’s White House.

And it’s an appetite that’s existed for some time, and a message that previous candidates — even those with day jobs in Washington — have used before.

Barack Obama, then a first-term senator, won in 2008 with a promise to change the nation’s politics. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush won in 2000 promising to bring heartland values to Washington and turn the page on the scandals of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton won his 1992 campaign with a pledge of “it’s time to change America.”

Walker is little different. His campaign-in-waiting is called “Our American Revival,” and its message to voters and donors begins, “government closest to the people is the most responsive and accountable to the people,” and scorns “federal overreach” that “infringes on our American freedoms and values.”

Yet Washington is where Walker was last week, spending Saturday night at the annual dinner of the exceptionally exclusive Alfalfa Club, an invitation-only affair for Washington’s most well-connected. His trip largely amounted to three days of job interviews — both for those he is seeking to hire, as well as for himself before deep-pocketed donors.

Case in point: Walker’s political action committee in recent days has hired the Republican National Committee’s press secretary, Washington-area polling firm the Tarrance Group and former RNC political director Rick Wiley.

Perry attacked Washington in an early television ad produced by his political action committee: “Conservative leadership is putting people back to work, and families are building their futures,” he said. “We need more of that and less of Washington.”

Yet Perry arrived in Washington on Tuesday night and leaves Friday morning, although with only one public event on his schedule: the keynote address at the annual gala of the conservative think tank American Principles Project. The rest of the time was largely devoted to private meetings with political operatives.

Perry on Thursday named more than 80 major donors to his political action committee’s advisory board, a significant show of strength in the midst of his Washington swing. The group includes some of the biggest donors in Republican politics, a group spread across the country, but with extensive ties in the nation’s capital.

Jindal was to address the American Principles Project’s Thursday luncheon, and like the others, has lashed out at Washington in recent months.

Jindal predicted “a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C.” during an appearance in the city last June that referred to “a rebellion brewing” in the states.


Jerusalem Selected for Ministry’s Restaurant Hashgacha Pilot Program

February 5th, 2015

kosherThe Ministry of Religious Services announces Yerushalayim has been selected for its hashgacha pilot program after officials in the city’s religious council asked to be included.

To date, mashgichim working for the Jerusalem Rabbanut have been employed by the eatery they supervise. This is the case in most local rabbinates around the country. The ministry feel this results in a conflict of interests since if tensions result between the eatery owner and the mashgiach, it may impact his employment.

The real details of the pilot project will not be announced until following Knesset elections.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

ADL ‘Deeply Troubled’ By Anti-Semitic Appeal Made By Russian-Backed Ukrainian Separatists

February 5th, 2015

uThe Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today was deeply troubled by a thinly veiled anti-Semitic appeal made by the leadership of the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics,” who referred to the central government in Kyiv as “pathetic representatives of the great Jewish people.”

During a press conference on February 2 captured on YouTube, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky – respectively of Donetsk and Lugansk – asked how “Cossacks could be ruled by the not quite right kind of people.” After several minutes of calling on Ukrainian citizens to disobey and reject President Poroshenko and his government, Zakharenko explicitly mentioned ‘Jews,’ and Plotnitsky immediately attempted to provide cover against accusations of anti-Semitism by referring to a YouTube video about ‘Jewish Cossacks.’

“Those watching understood very well that this was an anti-Semitic appeal,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Their body language clearly gave them away as Plotnitsky began to smirk at the beginning of the performance, knowing what was coming, and Zakharenko, who tried not to laugh as he was speaking, said ‘Jews’ very subtly, before Plotnitsky tried to inoculate them from the anti-Semitism accusation with his comments, which came so quickly they were clearly pre-planned.”

Mr. Foxman added, “Anti-Semitism has no place in political speech, and any attempt to espouse anti-Jewish hatred within any political arena is simply unacceptable.”

In April 2014, ADL condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, which were handed out on the first night of Passover instructing Jews to register with the government or face deportation and confiscation of their property.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

TNS Teleseker Poll for Walla: Bayit Yehudi Stuck at 12 Seats

February 5th, 2015

7A TNS Teleseker poll conducted for Walla News shows the Likud holding at 26 seats. Bayit Yehudi seems stuck, unable to climb back to 16 and 18 seats, holding once again at a mere 12 seats.

The poll indicates the media’s attack against Mrs. Sara Netanyahu which has become known as “Bottle Gate” did not hurt Likud in the eyes of voters.

(Parentheses: Results from the poll conducted on January 29th)

Likud: 26 (27)

Labor/The Movement: 23 (26)

Bayit Yehudi: 12 (12)

Arab bloc: 12 (12)

Yesh Atid: 10 (8)

Kulanu: 8 (7)

Yahadut Hatorah: 7 (7)

Shas: 7 (7)

Yisrael Beitenu: 7 (6)

Meretz: 4 (4)

Yachad: 4 (4)

The right-wing leads as far as assembling a coalition. The left-wing has failed to pull votes from the right-wing during the past six weeks.

Who is best suited to serve as prime minister?

Netanyahu: 52% (49%)

Herzog: 31% (27%)

Do not know/would not respond: 17% (23%)

Both earned about 3% more than in the last survey while the “undecided/refuse to respond” dropped from 23% to 17.1%.

Would you like to see Binyamin Netanyahu continue serving as PM?

38.5%: not interested at all in seeing him continue

11.8%: not interested in seeing him continue

26.3%: very interested in seeing him continue

18.8%: interested in seeing him continue

Reminder did not respond to this question.

6500 people were questioned representing a cross section of the adult Israeli population. The margin of error is two seats.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Facing New Criminal Investigation

February 5th, 2015

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as members of his administration, a man at the center of the investigation told ABC News.

The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey has interviewed former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who claims he was fired because he objected to Christie officials dismissing indictments against political allies of the governor. Barlyn confirmed the investigation to ABC News. It was first reported by the International Business Times.


Average US Rate on 30-Year Mortgage Falls to 3.59 Percent

February 5th, 2015

mortAverage long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, resuming their downward trend of this year after rising slightly last week. Rates are near historically low levels.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage declined to 3.59 percent from 3.66 percent last week. The average rate is at its lowest level since May 2013.

The rate for the 15-year loan, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, eased to 2.92 percent from 2.98 percent last week.

A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.23 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.33 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, which were meant to hold down long-term rates.


Jerusalem: Child Injured in Dog Attack

February 5th, 2015

ichudIchud Hatzalah reported on Thursday, 16 Shevat that a two-year-old boy was injured in his face when attacked by a dog on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem during the morning hours. Police are checking into the incident.

EMT Chezi Roth reports “The child sustained serious facial injuries after being badly bitten by the dog… We arrived and assisted in treating him and he was taken by ambulance to a hospital in moderate condition. The dog was apprehended and in custody of Jerusalem veterinary officials.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

VIDEO: Rockland Legislator Wieder And E. Ramapo Public School Parents Express Their Pain On Bonds Referendum Failure

February 5th, 2015



New City – Rockland County Legislator Aron B. Wieder (D-District 13) is urging people to vote yes for the Capital Improvements Bond Referendum that will be held in the East Ramapo Central School District on Tuesday. The referendum will determine whether or not the district will borrow $40 million for major renovations and facilities upgrades. According to the district, the state will reimburse the district for over half of the total costs expended.

“The public school buildings in East Ramapo are due for major improvements,” said Legislator Wieder. “The four year project will repair and replace roofs that are leaking, broken windows, and antiquated boiler systems. I urge everyone to support this effort to renew our commitment to the public school students and taxpayers of East Ramapo and rebuild our infrastructure.”

Other repairs will be done to East Ramapo facilities and the administration building, as well as remediating damaged pavement and sidewalks on school properties. By making these replacements, the district will no longer have to spend money on repairs on aging assets, or be subject to an emergency in the event of the complete failure of a boiler or HVAC system in a school.

Hungary Jewish Organization Laments Comment Linking Merkel, Nazis

February 5th, 2015

holOne of Hungary’s leading rabbis has apologized for saying that Chancellor Angela Merkel was the highest-ranking German official to visit Budapest’s Dohany Street Synagogue since Adolf Eichmann, one of the Nazi officials who organized the Holocaust.

The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities said Thursday that Andras Heisler’s comments in the weekly Hetek magazine had only meant to illustrate “what a long historical way Germany has come from the Holocaust to the present.”

In the interview, Heisler also mentioned that Monday’s meeting between Merkel and leaders of Hungary’s Jewish groups took place in the room “from where Eichmann issued his deadly orders.”

More than 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.


Poll: 33 Percent of Yishai Supporters Are Ashkenazim

February 5th, 2015

yish18ording to the latest Magar Mochot poll conducted by Professor Yitzchak Katz for Kol Berama Radio, the Shas party is down to 6 seats as is Yahadut Hatorah. Only 12% of Shas voters will vote for Eli Yishai and 50% of Yishai voters have voted for parties that fail to meet the minimum threshold to enter Knesset.

The polls shows that if elections were held today, Likud and Labor/The Movement would both receive 24 seats. They would be followed by Bayit Yehudi with 14, and then the Arab bloc 12, Yesh Atid 11, Kulanu 8, Meretz 6, Yahadut Hatorah 6, Yisrael Beitenu 5 and Yachad 4.

The poll also showed that 6% of the chareidi public would vote for Bnei Torah if it was running independent, which would amount to three seats. Many Bnei Torah followers are expected to boycott the election.

Regarding Eli Yishai, 50% of his party’s backers voted in the past for parties that did not meet the minimum to enter Knesset, including Otzma Yisrael and Am Shalem. This would signal the union between Yishai and Marzel will be beneficial. 12% of Yishai supporters voted Shas in the past, while 16% come from Bayit Yehudi and 5% Likud.

33% of Yachad supporters identify as being Ashkenazi and one-third of Israeli believe Yishai will pass the minimum threshold.

425 people were interviewed by phone, representing a cross section of the adult Jewish population.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

NJ State Trooper’s Nazi Daughter Threatens ‘Bombing Time’ For Lakewood Jews

February 5th, 2015


The following is via the APP:

A State Police sergeant’s teenage daughter who dressed like Hitler and posted on social media a picture of a popular gathering spot for Orthodox Jews — with the caption “perfect bombing time” — may have behaved offensively, but not criminally, authorities said.

The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office examined the Twitter post and a cache of other pro-Hitler images by the Jackson teen and her associates and concluded that they did not amount to any credible threat.

“There was never any danger being posed to the community,” said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the office. “It didn’t rise to anything criminal.”

He added that the one teen’s connection to law enforcement afforded her no special treatment — even as police remain on heightened alert for terrorism and threats conveyed through social media.

“That would not be something that would be a determining factor,” Della Fave said. “That has no bearing on the case.”

He also dismissed any suggestion that the authorities would have taken a harsher view if the posters — apparently all white — were of a different background.

“Everything was evaluated at face value. We have been assured by the families and the school that this is something that will be handled.”


04 03 02


3 House Democrats to Skip Netanyahu Speech

February 5th, 2015


Three prominent House Democrats are vowing to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month, saying they disapprove of House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite the Israeli leader without consulting President Barack Obama.

Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said they won’t attend Netanyahu’s March 3 speech.

The White House also hinted Thursday that Vice President Joe Biden may not attend Netanyahu’s speech, which is expected to focus on Iran. Spokesman Josh Earnest said Biden takes “very seriously” his responsibilities as Senate president, including his ceremonial duty to attend joint sessions of Congress. However, Earnest noted that Biden missed a joint session in 2011 because he was traveling abroad.

Earnest said the vice president’s travel schedule for early March has not been finalized.

He told reporters that Obama “does believe it is up to individual members of Congress to make their own decision about whether or not to attend.”

Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, said Thursday that Boehner’s unilateral invitation to Netanyahu was “an affront to the president and the State Department” that cannot be ignored. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Thursday he was “very disappointed that the speaker would cause such a ruckus” among members of Congress. He called the speaker’s actions “unprecedented.”

Blumenauer, a well-known liberal views and advocate of alternative energy, called on Boehner last week to cancel the joint session with Netanyahu. If the speech goes forward, “I will refuse to be part of a reckless act of political grandstanding,” Blumenauer said.

The Constitution vests the responsibility for foreign affairs in the president, Blumenauer said, adding that “it’s deeply troubling that the speaker is willing to undercut diplomacy in exchange for theatrics on the House floor.”

Butterfield also criticized Netanyahu, saying that by accepting Boehner’s invitation without talking to Obama, the prime minister had “politicized” his visit to the United States.

Netanyahu’s speech is expected to focus largely on Iran — and its nuclear program — amid delicate negotiations involving the United States, other Western powers and Tehran. Netanyahu’s acceptance of Boehner’s invitation has infuriated the White House and many congressional Democrats.

Netanyahu is a critic of administration negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and some Democrats fear the Israeli leader will use the opportunity to embarrass Obama and further his own campaign for re-election.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she plans to attend the speech.

“It is really sad that it has come to this,” Pelosi said Thursday, adding that “as of now, it is my intention to go.”

Butterfield and Lewis both said their decisions to skip the speech were personal and were not part of an organized boycott.

“I can emphatically say it is not an organized effort,” Butterfield said, adding: “The only thing I can control is my attendance.”


Stormy Anti-Draft Protest in Beit Shemesh; Classic Chants Of ‘Nazis’ As Police Break Up Protests

February 5th, 2015

Hafganah-16Following the arrests of four talmidei yeshiva from Ponevezh listed as AWOL (Absent without Official Leave) by the IDF, protests have been taking place in a number of cities around Israel throughout the week. The latest protest was held in Beit Shemesh. The stormy protest included the shouts of “Gevald” as chareidim sat in the street in an effort to block traffic, then reverting to calling police “Nazis” as they were removed, some detained.

A total of seven arrests were reported and the suspects were taken to the local police station.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Jewish Agency Officials Travel to France to Show Solidarity

February 5th, 2015

ftaA group of Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors members traveled to Paris this week in order to express solidarity with the local Jewish community and assess the community’s needs in the wake of the recent terror attacks there. The Jewish Agency solidarity group, chaired by former Board of Governors Chair Carole Solomon, included Deputy Chairman of the Executive Rany Trainin, representatives from Jewish Federations across North America, and senior professionals from the Jewish Federations of North America, one of The Jewish Agency’s primary partners.

While in Paris, the group met with leaders from the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF, the umbrella of French Jewish organizations), the Consistoire (the representative body of French Jewry), and other Jewish organizations, as well as with Ambassador of Israel Yossi Gal and the local Jewish Agency delegation. The group also visited Hyper Cacher, the Paris kosher supermarket targeted in the deadly terror attack on January 9, and met with Sandra Charabi, a survivor of the attack.

Speaking to the group, community leaders praised The Jewish Agency’s work in France and asked that it be expanded even further. “Masa is the strongest way to keep our young people connected to Israel and being Jewish,” said Keren HaYesod France President Richard Prasquier, referring to Masa Israel Journey, a partnership between The Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel that brings thousands of Jewish young people from around the world to experience life in Israel each year.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky accompanied Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his solidarity visit to Paris last month. Upon returning to Israel, he said: “The Jewish Agency is committed to helping the French Jewish community remain strong and secure. We embrace the families of the victims and the entire French Jewish community and we stand ready to serve any French Jew who wishes to make Aliyah and any who wishes to lead a robust Jewish life in the land of Israel.”

More than 7,000 French Jews made Aliyah in 2014, well over double the 3,400 who immigrated to Israel in 2013 and triple the 1,900 who did so in 2012. Over the past year, The Jewish Agency has doubled the size of its delegation in France and of its French-speaking staff in Jerusalem in order to accommodate the heightened interest in Aliyah. Additionally, The Jewish Agency has expanded opportunities for young French Jews to experience Israel through programs such as Masa Israel Journey, Onward Israel, and Bac Bleu Blanc, a weeklong Israel experience program for French Jewish teenagers. The Jewish Agency’s Emergency Assistance Fund, created after the terror attack at the Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, provides financial assistance to French Jewish institutions in order to enable them to put security measures in place and allow Jewish life to continue despite current threats.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Republicans, Democrats Jockey On Changing Education Law

February 5th, 2015

senOutnumbered by Republicans, Democratic lawmakers are jockeying to get their views heard as Congress moves ahead on revising the much-maligned No Child Left Behind education law.

With votes anticipated in the House and Senate, House Democrats crowded into a small Capitol Hill hearing room Thursday for their own forum on changing the law in protest of Republicans’ handling of the issue.

Annual testing requirements, Common Core standards and school choice are all hot-button issues in the debate. Both sides heartily agree that the landmark law needs to be fixed, but tension centers on the level of federal involvement in classifying and fixing schools.

Complicating the issue, allegiances don’t clearly fall along party lines. Among Republicans, for example, some members want to essentially eliminate the federal role in education, but GOP-friendly business groups side with civil rights groups in support of a strong federal role. Teachers’ unions, historically aligned with Democrats, have criticized the Obama administration’s handling of education policy as having too much of an emphasis on testing.

The bipartisan No Child Left Behind law, signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was designed to bring equity to schools and mandated that students in grades three to eight be tested annually in reading and math and once again in high school. Schools that didn’t show annual growth faced consequences, and every student was to be proficient by 2014.

Deciding that the goal was unattainable, the Obama administration in 2012 started granting waivers to states allowing them to avoid some of the more stringent requirements of the law if they met conditions such as adopting meaningful teacher evaluation systems and college- and career-ready standards like Common Core. The standards spell out what skills students in each grade should master in reading and math.

Widespread disagreement over how to change the law has kept Congress from getting a bill to President Barack Obama.

With Republicans now controlling both the House and the Senate, congressional leaders are hopeful they can get a bill passed this year. That’s left House Democrats frustrated with the speed at which it’s moving.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on Tuesday released a bill to update the law similar to one passed by the House in 2013 without one Democrat on board, and scheduled a Feb. 11 committee meeting to consider it. The bill maintains federal testing requirements, but it strips the federal government of much of its authority — including limiting the education secretary’s role in “coercing” standards. A vote is expected in late February.

Kline said the committee has had more than a dozen hearings over the last four years. “Americans have waited long enough for reforms that will fix a broken education system,” he said. Like Alexander, Kline has expressed concern that a strong federal role in education stifles education advancement and innovation in states.

But Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Va., the newly appointed senior Democrat on the committee, accused House Republicans of a “hasty, partisan push” to rewrite the law and he organization the forum with a panel of education experts.

Opening the hearing, Scott noted that this year, a majority of the nation’s school children live in poverty, and students of color make up the majority of students in school. He said the law must “continue the historic federal role in education to support schools and districts with high concentrations of poverty” and to “overcome the achievement gap that still exists.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that Kline’s bill would “turn back the clock on growth.”

In the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, senior Democrat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, came out against a provision in a draft bill circulated by the panel’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to let federal dollars follow low-income students to a different public school.

Much of the discussion in the Senate has focused on whether federal testing mandates should continue. Alexander has said he’s willing to listen to both sides.

He’s hopeful by the end of the month he can get a bill out of his committee.

“We have to have a bipartisan result. Otherwise we won’t have a law,” Alexander said.


AUDIO: Second Recording Shows Maran Rav Ovadia Stood Firmly Behind Yishai

February 5th, 2015


Once again a recording from the home of Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef ZT”L was released to the tzibur, this time not a recording from 2008 but one that dates to a few weeks before the petira of the gadol hador.

In the latest recording Rav Yosef ZT”L is heard telling Yishai that he is the trusted leader of Shas who is beloved to him. The latest recording was heard on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio).

Rav Ovadia is heard clearly showering Yishai with words of praise and love for his years of dedication and service as Maran’s shaliach. In the earlier video, Maran is heard clearly praising Yishai while lamenting the qualities and leadership of Aryeh Deri.

Deri officials in reaction to the latest recording state the words heard are by no means a proof of Maran’s true intentions.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)