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UW removes Holocaust denial flyers posted on campus

Flyers calling the Holocaust a hoax were recently posted in a number of buildings at the University of Wyoming, coinciding with the school’s remembrance week for the estimated 6 million Jews who were systematically killed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The incident has been reported to the Anti-Defamation League in Denver, but the school can’t do much more than remove the flyers, said Chad Baldwin, a university spokesman.

“The content of the handbills, while reprehensible, is in fact protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

Littering, however, is not.

Posting handbills violates a city ordinance, so the campus police are investigating, Baldwin said.

The university plans to release a formal statement Friday.

The flyers showed up during last year’s remembrance week as well, Baldwin said, and similar incidents have been reported on other college campuses.

Thursday was the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, a Nazi regime-organized night of widespread violence against Jews, their homes and businesses in Germany in 1938.

Holocaust survivor Estelle Nadel is speaking at the university Friday.

A call to the Laramie Jewish Community Center, which is hosting Nadel’s visit, was not returned by press time.

The flyers call the Holocaust a “criminally fraudulent” claim and direct readers to an outdated website peppered with adverbs like “wizardly,” claiming to be an organization of forensic historians.

The Anti-Defamation League is aware of the website and its founder, a single individual, said Sue Parker Gerson, associate regional director for the league’s mountain state region.

“This is 2017, you can put anything up on the internet,” she said. “Somebody, somewhere is going to believe it. It seems that somebody in Laramie decided to put up flyers.”

Though the content of the flyers may seem too ridiculous to take seriously, the intent is not, she said.

The league has noted a spike of anti-Semitic incidents in the last year, both in the Rocky Mountain region and nationally, she said.

“Anti-Semitism is present, and one manifestation is Holocaust denial, saying that the murder of 6 million Jews, and 5 million others, didn’t happen,” she said. “The way we deal with that is education to the contrary.”

Holocaust denial attempts are repeatedly refuted by organizations like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., which cites the proliferation of German records, photographs and videos as well as survivor, soldier and refugee testimony.

Dr. Stephanie Anderson, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said Holocaust denial was disheartening for academics and teachers.

“It’s been proven beyond a doubt, so it shows that we have to reinvent the wheel if you will, to reestablish things that have already been established.”

After the Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany was liberated by the Allies, locals from the nearby towns were forced to tour the camps and see the bodies of hundreds of people imprisoned there strewn about like waste. It was an attempt to destroy the possibility of denial, a role the U.S. has taken on ever since, the professor said.

“That people deny that work, that effort that the U.S. has been at the forefront of documenting, is difficult,” Anderson said.

The denial rhetoric, so close to Veterans Day, is an insult to the American soldiers who fought and died in that war, she added.

“The difficult thing is that many of the eyewitnesses are dying, simply because of age,” she said. “All the more reason to record them and make sure that their testimony lives on.”

Laramie Mayor, residents surprised by WyoTech's plans to close

It’s been a tough few years for Laramie.

State budget cuts caused the city to keep at least 20 employee positions vacant, and the University of Wyoming lost several hundred positions through layoffs and attrition, according to Mayor Andrea Summerville.

Now the city’s facing another economic blow: WyoTech, a vocational school that offers automotive and diesel technology programs, plans to close its doors.

“They are a major employer and they bring a lot of students to town,” said Summerville.

Zenith Education Group, a career education provider that owns the institute, released a statement Wednesday explaining that 21 of its campuses, including WyoTech, will cease enrollment. Current students will finish up their classes.

“It has become evident to us that many of our campuses are located in areas that are geographically inconvenient for under-served students or not built to accommodate the programs that we want and need to offer,” Zenith said in its statement. “We intend to use those learnings in a more focused three-campus approach to enhance initiatives.”

The campuses that will remain open are in Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Summerville said she was surprised by the announcement and will need more details about the closure’s timeline before she can fully discuss its potential impact or the city’s next steps.

The school has approximately 65 employees and 360 students, according to a campus official.

The local business community, from restaurants to apartment complexes, will likely be affected by the closure if students and faculty move elsewhere, said JJ Harris, president and CEO of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

However, Harris said he believes another company will be interested in purchasing the facility.

“I would hope that the transition would be almost instantaneous,” he said.

Stating that he was caught off guard by the announcement, Harris added the alliance will be holding two meetings next week to discuss the issue.

Laramie resident and retired teacher Jan Hanson said she’ll be sorry to see the center close. There aren’t enough schools that focus on vocational training, she said.

WyoTech students also frequently volunteer for community service activities, according to both Summerville and Hanson. By serving meals at soup kitchens and pitching in on community cleanup days, the students make the city a better place to live.

“I think Laramie as a community is going to miss that,” said Hanson.

Representatives for WyoTech could not be reached for comment by press time.

Zenith purchased WyoTech in 2015. The school’s previous owner, Corinthian Colleges, sold WyoTech after being accused of altering grades and student attendance records, and falsifying job placement data.

Senate GOP tax bill would delay corporate cut, undo deductions

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans revealed the details of their sweeping tax legislation Thursday, including a one-year delay in plans for a major corporate tax cut despite strident opposition from the White House and others in their own party. Their bill would leave the prized mortgage interest deduction untouched for homeowners in a concession to the powerful real estate lobby but would ignore a House compromise on the hot-button issue of state and local tax deductions.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House Ways and Means Committee approved its own version of the legislation on a party-line 24-16 vote, amid intense political pressure on the GOP to push forward on the first major rewrite of the U.S. tax code in three decades. It's President Donald Trump's top priority and a goal many Republicans believe has grown even more urgent in the wake of election losses on Tuesday that displayed an energized Democratic electorate.

Yet as the Senate Finance Committee unveiled its bill, a few stark differences emerged with the version approved by the House tax-writing committee, underscoring the challenges ahead in getting both chambers to agree on the complex and far-reaching legislation that would affect nearly every American.

The Senate measure fails to repeal the estate tax, though it doubles the size of estates exempted from the tax. It makes couples earning up to $1 million eligible for a $1,650 per-child tax credit. It creates a new 38.5 percent tax bracket for couples earning more than $1 million and individuals making more than $500,000 per year. And it takes a different approach to cutting taxes for businesses not organized as corporations that is less generous but applies to more businesses.

Democrats are strongly opposed to the GOP rewrite, so the Republicans must find agreement among themselves to have any hope of passage.

The Senate bill would fully repeal the state and local deduction claimed by many taxpayers, an idea that has drawn vigorous opposition from House Republicans in New York and New Jersey and resulted in a compromise in the House version of the bill that would allow property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told The Associated Press that the Senate's total-repeal approach would face tough sledding in his chamber. As for the hard-fought compromise, he said, "I think it'd be difficult not to have it in the final bill."

On the other hand, the House bill would lower the cap on the mortgage interest deduction, an idea that caused intense blowback from the real estate lobby, but the Senate tax measure would leave it unchanged. That means homebuyers would continue to be able to deduct interest payments on loans of up to $1 million as permitted under current law; the House bill would reduce the limit to $500,000 for new home purchases.

The feverish efforts by Republicans in both chambers are aimed at fulfilling a self-imposed deadline to get legislation out of the House and Senate before Thanksgiving so the period between then and Christmas can be devoted to reconciling the two versions.

In one provision sure to cause a major dispute, the Senate measure includes a one-year delay in lowering the corporate tax rate, which is to be cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. Delaying that reduction would lower the cost of the bill to the Treasury, but the delay is opposed by the White House and some Senate Republicans.

"The president would like this to go into effect right away," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday on Fox Business Network.

Other obstacles remain, among them a band of deficit hawks in the Senate who are unhappy about the $1.5 trillion the legislation would add to the national debt over the coming decade.

The House and Senate bills are broadly similar in their outlines. Both would drastically reduce the corporate tax rate and also lower rates for individuals, while eliminating deductions claimed by many people.

The House version would collapse the current seven tax brackets into four, while the Senate would retain seven. The House bill would entirely eliminate the estate tax, while the Senate version would retain it while doubling the exemption level. Both versions would retain an adoption tax credit that had initially been eliminated in the House bill, but that adoption advocates fought to restore.

Both would increase a child tax credit, though not to levels sought by Sens. Marco Rubio and others, an indication of how individual provisions will need to be negotiated with one lawmaker after another in the weeks to come. House Republicans appear on track to pass their version of the bill next week, but in the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a slim 52-48 majority that has proven difficult to corral.

Democrats are angrily opposed to the GOP rewrite, arguing it's a giveaway to the rich and corporate America. Republicans contend that the tax reductions will help the middle class, even though some independent analyses have found that the wealthy and corporations benefit disproportionately.

The tax bill must deepen federal deficits by no more than $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. If Republicans don't meet that, the measure would be vulnerable to a bill-killing Senate filibuster by Democrats that GOP senators lack the votes to block. It also cannot add to red ink beyond the first 10 years without facing the same fate.

Rocky Mountain Power fee increase passes another Casper City Council vote; three object

A potential new agreement between Casper and Rocky Mountain Power that would increase the electrical company’s franchise fee — and as a result bump up rates for consumers — gained another opponent at Casper City Council’s Tuesday night meeting.

The agreement — which Council must vote in favor of approving a total of three times before it will become official — passed the first round of voting on Oct. 17, despite objections from Councilman Shawn Johnson and Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay.

The two council members voted “no” again during the second round Tuesday night, and this time Councilman Jesse Morgan concurred.

The primary justification for increasing the fee is to help the city balance its budget, meaning there will no longer be a reason for the increase once the budget is fixed, explained Morgan. The councilman said he is concerned that the increased fee would never be reduced after it was raised.

Like the current contract, which expires Dec. 31, the new agreement will grant Rocky Mountain Power an electric utility franchise in Casper that allows the company to have a general utility easement to locate its electrical facilities in public areas, such as streets and alleys. However, the new agreement will increase the electrical company’s franchise fee from 5 to 7 percent of its gross revenues derived from within the corporate limits of the city.

The increased fee would annually bring in an estimated $800,000 to the city, City Manager Carter Napier previously told the Star-Tribune.

Napier has been tasked by City Council with reducing the roughly $4 million in reserves now being used in the budget. He proposed an amendment at council’s Oct. 24 work session that he said will reduce most of the reserves being used in the budget without any layoffs.

The amendment, which has not yet been authorized by the Council, relies heavily on the assumption that the new agreement with Rocky Mountain Power will be approved. It also factors in an unexpected sales tax revenue bump of $680,000, as well as savings expected to result from a series of budget cuts that took effect in September.

If the city continues to spend money on its current path, it will be declared officially “broke” by December 2020, Napier warned the Council at the work session.

During the first vote on the agreement last month, the city manager told Council members that the fee hike would likely increase the average residential customer’s bill by about $1.50 a month.

Pointing out that this is about the cost of a cup of coffee, Councilman Bob Hopkins said he felt that was a reasonable amount, and most council members concurred.

“All of us citizens are going to have to start paying a little more to keep the city running,” said Mayor Kenyne Humphrey.

But stating that not every resident can afford a cup of coffee, Johnson quickly objected. Small fee increases eventually add up to significant amounts, said the councilman, who expressed concerned about burdening residents who are already financially struggling.

The city’s economic challenges stem from low sales tax revenue and concerns over the certainty of state funding. City leaders are worried that the money they receive from the Wyoming Legislature is in jeopardy, as the state continues to take in less revenue due to weak energy prices.