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Trump deletes Tweets supporting Luther Strange in Alabama

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Trump Deletes Tweets

They weren’t going to do any good anymore now that the race is over. They apparently didn’t do much good before the voting started, either. President Trump deleted Tweets leading up to election day for the runoff between Luther Strange and Roy Moore. They were fighting for the GOP nomination for Senator. Trump backed Strange. Moore won.

Twitter tracking site Polititwoops monitors accounts of public officials. When they delete Tweets, they’re archived on the site. The operation, run by ProPublica, claims to have been monitoring Trump’s Tweets since May 18, 2015, around the time he was announcing his candidacy for President. They logged three deleted Tweets that supported “Big Luther.”

Older Tweets supporting Strange go back over a month and were not deleted at this point.

The President is no stranger to the Twitter delete button. He often corrects mistakes in Tweets he sends; a Tweet congratulating Moore for his victory was deleted and replaced with one that accurately reflected the month of the general election. The three pro-Strange Tweets were most likely stricken to remove them from his official social media record.

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‘Ralph’ tops box office again, ‘Aquaman’ is a hit in China

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Ralph tops box office again Aquaman is a hit in China

NEW YORK (AP) — In the calm before the Christmas storm at the box office, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” remained No. 1 for the third straight week, while the upcoming DC Comics superhero film “Aquaman” arrived with a cannonball-sized splash in Chinese theaters.

For the second week in a row, no new wide releases opened in North American theaters, allowing Disney’s animated sequel to again lead domestic ticket sales with $16.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The top six films at the box office were all unchanged. Universal’s “The Grinch,” still a major draw in its fifth weekend, trailed in second with $15.2 million.

But the weekend’s biggest new arrival was in China, where Warner Bros.′ “Aquaman” debuted with $93.6 million in ticket sales. That marked a new opening-weekend record for both Warner Bros. and DC in China. Considering the checkered recent history of DC films (“Justice League,” ″Suicide Squad”), the big launch in China was a promising sign for the spinoff starring Jason Momoa.

“Adding to the success of ‘Wonder Woman,’ this is a really solid performance and portends big numbers for North America in two weeks when it opens,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “This is a movie, along with ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and ‘Bumblebee’ and other movies, that’s going to give December that boost that a ‘Star Wars’ movie would give us.”

“Aquaman” will expand to 40 international countries next week and arrive in North American theaters Dec. 21.

“Aquaman” wasn’t the only big-budget holiday season release receiving a lift this week. Paramount’s “Transformers” prequel “Bumblebee” played a one-night sneak preview in 326 theaters nationwide ahead of its Dec. 21 release.

Paramount declined to share ticket figures but domestic distribution chief Kyle Davies said theaters were mostly sold out. Perhaps more importantly, the film directed by Travis Knight and starring Hailee Steinfeld aided its word of mouth with largely glowing reviews — a rarity for the “Transformers” franchise.

Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” due out Dec. 19, also helped its cause with four Golden Globe nominations Thursday, including best picture, comedy or musical, and acting nods for Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The feel-good interracial road trip period tale “Green Book” fared even better at the Globes (five nominations, including best picture, comedy or musical, and acting nods for Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen) and had good results at the box office to show for it. In its fourth week of release, “Green Book” held with a rare 0 percent drop, earning $3.9 million in 1,181 theaters. It has grossed $20 million in total.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ comic period drama “The Favourite” continued to pick up steam. The acclaimed Fox Searchlight release, starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, expanded into 91 theaters over the weekend to gross $1.4 million ($15,000 per theater).

A more traditional royal drama, “Mary Queen of Scots,” also opened strongly in limited release. The Focus Features title, starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, debuted in four theaters with a robust $50,045 per-theater average. Lis Bunnell, president of distribution for Focus, said the film’s modern spin “made it resonate with audiences in a powerful way paralleling so much of what is still going on today for women.”

Also opening in limited release were “Ben Is Back,” the family addiction drama with Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (a $20,243 per-theater average in four theaters), and the caustic pop music critique “Vox Lux,” with Natalie Portman (a $27,000 per-theater average in six theaters).

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” Universal re-released the Holocaust epic in 1,029 theaters. But it failed to turn out large crowds, grossing a modest $551,000.

Next weekend, the box office is expected to be significantly busier with the release of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” ″Once Upon a Deadpool” and Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” and “Mortal Engines.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.

1. “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” $16.1 million.

2. “The Grinch,” $15.2 million ($25.9 million international).

3. “Creed II,” $10.3 million ($5.2 million international).

4. “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald,” $6.8 million ($22 million international).

5. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” $6 million ($29.2 million international).

6. “Instant Family,” $5.6 million ($1.7 million international).

7. “Green Book,” $3.9 million.

8. “Robin Hood,” $3.6 million ($7.5 million international).

9. “Possession of Hannah Grace,” $3.2 million ($4.8 million international).

10. “Widows,” $3.1 million ($4.5 million international).

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:

1. “Aquaman,” $93.6 million.

2. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” $29.2 million.

3. “The Grinch,” $25.9 million.

4. “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald,” $22 million.

5. “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” $18 million.

6. “Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” $8 million.

7. “Robin Hood,” $7.5 million.

8. “A Cool Fish,” $6.9 million.

9. “Door Lock,” $5.3 million.

10. “Creed II,” $5.2 million.

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This version corrects Ali’s first name, Mahershala not Maheshala.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists in 2018

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Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists in 2018

The detailed Palestinian Authority budget for 2018 that was published recently has new details about the allocations to arrested terrorists and the families of those who died or were wounded in the context of the “struggle against Zionism:”

 The detailed Palestinian Authority budget for 2018 that was published recently has new details about the allocations to arrested terrorists and the families of those who died or were wounded in the context of the “struggle against Zionism:”

The total PA budget is $5 billion. The amount that supports prisoners is $155 million, out of which $147 million are spent on transfers to the prisoners. These include salaries to 5,000 prisoners, paying Israeli fines for 1,200 prisoners, grants to 1,500 prisoners upon their discharge, grants for 1,200 unemployed released prisoners, delayed payments to 1,000 prisoners, salaries for 5,500 released prisoners, unspecified amounts to released prisoners who spent more than 10 years in jail, canteen expenditures for 6,000 prisoners, and clothing allocations for 5,000 prisoners.

The PA budget for supporting the families of “martyrs” and the wounded is $185 million. This sum is used to make sure that 24,000 families of “martyrs” and wounded who reside inside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 13,500 such families who reside outside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 375 families get special monetary assistance, 28,000 families get health insurance, and monthly allowances are paid to the victims of the 2014 conflict in Gaza. On top of all this, the budget is used to finance a variety of benefits to the family members (such as going on pilgrimages and exemptions from education tuition).

Additional, unspecified amounts are included in the budget of the PA security forces and are used for paying salaries to members of the security forces who are under arrest for carrying out terror attacks, and to the families of terrorists who died or were injured while they were members of the PA security forces.

The overall PA welfare budget is $212 million, which is used for assistance to 118,000 families, each of which receives $200–480, on top of a variety of benefits, including exemption for tuition to 80,000 pupils, help with health insurance and emergency assistance, food allocations, and more.

Dedicating around $340 million to arrested Palestinian terrorists and “martyrs,” which forms 7 percent of the overall annual budget for 2018, reflects the prominence the Palestinian Authority and its leadership give to incentivizing terror. Palestinian law considers terrorists as the “fighting sector of Palestinian society.” As U.S. and Israeli pressure increases on the Palestinian Authority to cease paying these incentives and revoke the law upon which they are paid, Mahmoud Abbas has insisted repeatedly that he will not do so. “Even if we are left with one penny, we are going to use it for paying the salaries to the Martyrs and prisoners of war,” he declared.

These details also refute once more the occasional Palestinian claims that the payments of salaries to the terrorists are a sort of welfare. It is evident that welfare payments are paid separately and are far smaller than the salaries and other benefits paid to the arrested terrorists.

The U.S. Taylor Force Act, passed in March 2018, prevents the United States from aiding the PA budget as long as the payment of stipends to terrorists continues. The law has already led to the cessation of American aid to the Palestinian Authority, except for support to the Palestinian security forces. As a result, the Palestinian Authority lost more than $200 million.

An Israeli law (known as the Stern Law) was approved in July 2018 and is supposed to be implemented for the first time in January 2019. It mandates that the Israeli government deduct on a monthly basis one-twelfth of the sum given to support terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects and transfers to the Palestinian Authority based on the amount distributed in the previous year – in this case, in 2018. This may mean that about $21 million will be withheld monthly and kept in an escrow account, or even used to compensate victims of Palestinian terror.

The economic impact of these sanctions is going to be considerable, and more international donors may take similar steps. The Palestinian leadership will probably continue to resist the pressure in the beginning, but if these pressures persist, the Palestinians may have to reconsider their policy.

Palestinian Authority’s Direct Expenditure in Support of Terrorists and Their Families

Year 2016 2017 2018
Salaries to Terrorists (Yearly in NIS) NIS 488 million (NIS 530 million total incl. admin.) NIS 552 million (NIS 580 million total incl. admin.) NIS 550 million (NIS 580 million total incl. admin.)
$129 million $153 million $147 million
($155 million)
Payments to Martyr’s Families (Yearly) NIS 663 million NIS 690 million NIS 691 million
$175 million $192 million $185 million
Total Support to Terrorists and Martyrs NIS 1.1 billion NIS 1.3 billion NIS 1.3 billion
$303 million $353 million $340 million
Percentage of total budget 6.90% 7.10% 7%
Percentage of foreign aid 29.6% 50.9% 44%
Total PA budget NIS 16.6 billion NIS 17.8 billion NIS 18.1 billion
$4.4 billion $4.9 billion $5 billion
Total Foreign Aid NIS 3.9 billion (2.9 billion current budget, 956 million development) NIS 2.5 billion (1.9 billion current budget, 546 million development) NIS 2.8 billion (2.2 billion current budget, 630 million development)
$1 billion $693 million $775 million
Money Transfers from PA to PLO NIS 873 million NIS 943 million
$230 million $262 million

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

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Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

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Pence aide out of running to be Trumps next chief of staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff John Kelly, Nick Ayers, is no longer expected to fill the role.

Ayers, who is chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as the favorite for the job when Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would leave around year’s end. But a White House official said Sunday that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers’ length of service and that he would instead assist the president from outside the administration.

Ayers confirmed the decision in a tweet Sunday, thanking Trump and Pence for giving him the opportunity to work in the White House. “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump had a new favorite for the post. The official was not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ayers and Trump had discussed the job for months. The new hire was to be key to a West Wing reshuffling to shift focus toward the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governing with Democrats in control of the House.

Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election, the official said. Ayers, who has young triplets, had long planned to leave the administration at the end of the year, and had only agreed to serve in an interim basis through next spring.

Ayers will run a pro-Trump super PAC, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to discuss them by name.

Trump said Saturday that he expected to announce a replacement for Kelly in a day or two.

With Ayers out of the running, Trump is considering four candidates for the post, including Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking. He is to make a decision by the end of the year, said the person, was not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name.

Kelly, whose last day on the job is set to be Jan. 2, had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron first also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and over time he grew increasingly isolated, with an increasingly diminished role.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Follow Miller on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller

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