Monday, July 31, 2017

Rep. Black Statement on North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Launch

Washington, D.C. - July 31, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) responded to North Korea’s ballistic missile launch with the following statement:

“It is our responsibility in Congress to protect our citizens and hold North Korea accountable for their actions. This latest ballistic missile launch continues North Korea’s alarming escalation of aggressive acts, and we will not tolerate it,” said Congressman Black. “Just this week, the House passed H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, in a bipartisan vote sending the message that continued missile development and nuclear activity by North Korea is unacceptable. I urge President Trump to sign this legislation into law as quickly as possible.”

Beyer, Conyers, House Democrats Introduce Security Clearance Review Act

Washington, D.C. - July 31, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, today introduced the Security Clearance Review Act. The bill would authorize the Director of the FBI to revoke the security clearance of an employee of the Executive Office of the President if the Director deems such actions necessary to national security. Their legislation was cosponsored by 19 additional Representatives.

“Donald Trump’s refusal to hold his senior staff accountable for their deceptions on Russia have sadly made this legislation necessary,” said Rep. Beyer. “Despite all we have learned about his secret meetings with Russians, Jared Kushner apparently continues to hold his clearance. Jared Kushner’s case and that of disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn make it clear that we need further protections when it comes to security clearances for the President’s family and closest advisers. I thank my colleague, Ranking Member Conyers, for working with me to craft legislation to protect our national security.”

“The Trump Administration has a very poor track record when it comes to their handling of classified information—and those are only incidents we know about,” said Rep. Conyers. “Given that several senior officials appear to have failed to disclose their contacts with foreign governments on their applications for a security clearance, given that President Trump is related by marriage to at least one of these officials, and given that the President himself appears to have played fast and loose with sensitive intelligence, it is imperative that the authority to revoke these clearances extend beyond the President, to include the Director of the FBI.”
The cosponsors of the bill are Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Norma Torres (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT), David Cicilline (D-RI), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

Rep. Beyer has led congressional attempts to hold Jared Kushner accountable for “omitted” meetings with Russian officials from his SF-86 form since Kushner’s failure to disclose those meetings was revealed. In April, Beyer and four other Representatives asked the Administration to suspend Jared Kushner’s security clearance.

The FBI’s response to that letter alerted the Representatives to the surprising fact that the President alone holds final authority to suspend or revoke employees of the Executive Office of the President.

Beyer subsequently led over 50 Members of Congress in calling for immediate revocation of Kushner’s security clearance following revelations that the Special Prosecutor was investigating Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials.

Earlier this month, Beyer led nearly two dozen Representatives seeking FBI scrutiny of White House adviser Ivanka Trump over possible omissions on her SF-86.


Washington, D.C. - July 31, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-San Pedro) has co-sponsored legislation that would resolve the immigration status of 800,000 young Americans enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The American Hope Act of 2017 offers a pathway to citizenship to DREAMers—the young people who are studying, working and contributing to our society and who have greatly benefited from DACA.

“In my district, there’s a young woman named Diana Medel who has been able to attend college and become a passionate community leader because of DACA.

Separating her from her life in Wilmington by deporting her to Mexico, a country she hasn’t lived in since age seven, would be an act of extraordinary cruelty. She and the hundreds of thousands of people like her are why my colleagues and I are fighting hard to protect DACA.

Earlier this month I urged then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to stand with me and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in supporting a DREAMer law.

Mr. Kelly said he supports the DACA program. He has stood by Speaker Ryan’s side to publicly support anti-immigration legislation. Especially now that he’s at the White House, he should come back to Capitol Hill to take a stand with us to say that people like Diana Medel are Americans, and that they’re here to stay.”


Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- This week, Congressman Don Bacon (NE02) along with 22 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to exclude tinplate steel and aluminum for food packaging in any import restrictions initiated under, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This investigation was launched to determine whether steel and aluminum imports threaten or impair our national security.

“As a retired brigadier general who served nearly 30 years in the Air Force, I share the President’s strong commitment to ensuring both America’s security and a level playing field for American manufacturing” said Congressman Bacon. “However, if the investigation does not exclude tinplate steel and aluminum, primary components used in the domestic manufacturing of food packaging, we are concerned it could negatively affect U.S. food processers and increase food prices for consumers.”

Given that tinplate steel makes up approximately 60 percent of the cost of the can, even a tariff as low as 5 percent on imported tinplate steel would increase the cost of goods by $0.042 each. This cost would inevitably get passed on to consumers who in many cases are the most economically vulnerable. This would be unacceptable. Additionally, Congressman Bacon is concerned that the broad scope of the Section 232 investigations may impact aluminum as well.

“The domestic canned food supply chain and flexible packaging industry generates more than $100 billion in total economic activity in the U.S. and employs tens of thousands of American workers,” added Congressman Bacon. “This industry provides some of the safest, most affordable food available to consumers today. We will continue to keep pressing for what we believe is right for America and our constituents.”

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Democrat Governor Scams Taxpayers Out Of $6.4 million, And It’s Not Even His State

American Patriot News

Mississippi officials are demanding repayment of $6.4 million in taxpayer funds doled out to a politically-connected “green car” company that promised to create jobs in the state.

The good news is they know where to deliver the court documents, because the scammer is currently living in the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.


Fake Gwinnett attorney accused of bilking immigrants still on lam


Eddi Bueno-Cabrera was not, and is not, a real attorney, Gwinnett County police say.

Nevertheless, the native Dominican set up shop at flea market late last year and, using multiple aliases, began offering legal services.

He told one man he’d help his family get to the States legally and collected $6,000. He agreed to help a handful of foreign workers get legal status and collected $20,000. He promised someone else he’d assist with the immigration process and collected $10,000 more.


Japan Imposes Stiff Tariffs on Imported US Frozen Beef

Fumble Board

In unwelcome news for American farmers, Japan said Friday that it was imposing emergency tariffs of 50 percent on imports of frozen beef, mainly from the U.S. The increase, from 38.5 percent to 50 percent, will begin August 1, 2017 and last through March 31, 2018.

Under World Trade Organization rules, Japan can impose safeguard tariffs when imports rise more than 17 percent, year-on-year in any given quarter. The framework was to be scrapped under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade deal that included the USA and Japan, but Mr. Trump pulled the US out of the TPP before it went into effect. But U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from that accord after taking office.


Pitkin County, feds working on ATV ban enforcement plan

Aspen News

Come next summer, those who continue to ride off-road, unlicensed vehicles on Aspen Mountain and other Pitkin County roads may be in for a rude awakening.

That's because Pitkin County and U.S. Forest Service officials are working on a plan to hire two rangers to patrol Aspen Mountain and other areas in 2018 to enforce a ban on unlicensed, off-road vehicles on county roads, said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County's public works director.

Unlicensed, off-highway vehicles — which include the popular Razors, four-wheelers and other vehicles that don't have the proper equipment for an official license plate — never have been officially allowed on roads in Pitkin County or the city of Aspen. However, city and county law enforcement have traditionally not enforced the law.


Yellowstone park cracks down on sex harassment

News of the Day

BILLINGS, Mont. — As many as 10 workers in Yellowstone National Park’s maintenance division will be disciplined after an investigation found female employees were subjected to sexual harassment and other problems.

The move comes as widespread reports of harassment, bullying and other misconduct have tarnished the image of the National Park Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Interior Department.

Investigators have uncovered problems at many of the nation’s premier parks — Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Canaveral National Seashore — as well as inappropriate behavior toward female employees by the Interior Department’s former director of law enforcement.


British baby Charlie Gard has died, family spokeswoman says

Arkadelphia Siftings Herald

LONDON — Charlie Gard, the critically ill British baby at the center of a legal battle that attracted the attention of Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump, has died, according to a family spokeswoman. He would have turned 1 next week.

Charlie suffered from a rare genetic disease, mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which caused brain damage and left him unable to breathe unaided.

His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, raised more than 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him to the United States for experimental therapy they believed could prolong his life. But Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital objected, saying the treatment wouldn’t help and might cause him to suffer. The dispute ended up in court.

The case became a flashpoint for debates on health-care funding, medical intervention, the role of the state and the rights of children.


Uncertainty looms ahead for GOP effort to repeal and replace Affordable Care Act

Alaska Dispatch News

WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans on Friday glumly confronted the wreckage of their seven-year quest to abolish the Affordable Care Act, blaming each other and President Donald Trump for the dramatic early-morning collapse of the effort but finding no consensus on a way forward.

Some GOP lawmakers clung to long-shot hopes that some version of the legislation might be revived and that a deal might yet be struck before the fall. But the Senate's rejection early Friday of a last-ditch, bare-bones proposal to roll back just a few key planks of the law left GOP leaders with few options for uniting their sharply polarized ranks.

Hours later, House Republicans gathered in the Capitol to take stock of the situation. Some raised the prospect of abandoning their long-standing pledge to "repeal and replace" the ACA and instead working with Democrats to shore up weak spots in the law known as Obamacare. But Trump signaled little interest in that approach, leaving many lawmakers baffled about how to proceed.

"I'm not a prophet," said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who helped push an earlier version of the repeal bill through the House. "I don't know what comes next."

[Democrats urge investigations into Trump administration efforts to pressure Murkowski]

Politically, the collapse of the repeal effort is potentially devastating for Republicans. It leaves Trump without a significant policy achievement in the critical first six months of his presidency; it casts a pall over the party's coming drives to pass a budget and overhaul the tax code; and it exposes GOP lawmakers to rising anger from their conservative base.


Drug Task Force to benefit from asset forfeiture case

Andalusia Star News

Last week, the State of Alabama Court of Civil Appeals upheld the condemnation of a home on Snead Street and more than $18,000. The house is expected to be sold and the funds used to provide operating expenses for the 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force.

In October, the county learned that the Drug Task Force would not receive funding from an ADECA grant as it had in the past.

During an October meeting of the DTF board, District Attorney Walt Merrell suggested that the group use asset forfeiture money that was fully adjudicated for things such as rent.

Merrell said he would not disclose how much money was in that fund.



Washington, D.C. - July 29, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-02) released the following statement after the House Energy and Commerce Committee successfully passed H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017:

“I assume no one is surprised this bill started moving,” said Congressman Amodei. “The fact that the vote out of Committee was 49-4, and not a party-line vote, leads me to suspect this is a sign of things to come in the House. Another fact of note – when attempting to predict the future of this legislation – is the fact that Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry was confirmed in the Senate with a recorded vote of 62-37. We will continue to direct our efforts at providing the best possible protection for Nevadans.”

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sources: a new way of bringing information to our readers...

I've had people who laugh at me for my personal points of view on any given subject. They think I don't have "enough information" or that my "education is lacking" or that my "sources are tainted".

At The Ponder, with thousands of sources of information, we like for our visitors to be the judge.

That's why we constantly post press releases. None of that is going to change. But, now you will have access to our sources. All you have to do is visit the link on the right that is titled: The Ponder News Sources from A-Z

We are going to be posting information from our sources that you can view for yourselves from now on. We want you to know who our sources are, so YOU can be informed.

Stay tuned...

Conflict of Interest?

The US Attorney overseeing the Imran Awan investigation is Steve Wasserman, the brother of Debbie Wasserman Schultz - who hired Awan.

If this isn't a conflict of interest, I don't know what is.

Read about who Imran Awan is by clicking HERE

Burr Reintroduces Bill to Clean up IRS Following Disastrous IG Report

Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Following the critical report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) reintroduced a commonsense bill to improve accountability at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). S. 1643, the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, will bar the IRS Commissioner from rehiring employees who separated from the agency due to substantiated conduct or performance issues. The report, The Internal Revenue Service Continues to Rehire Former Employees With Conduct and Performance Issues, found that hundreds of former IRS employees with documented issues were rehired by the agency in an 18-month span. This is the second TIGTA report finding a widespread practice of rehiring previously fired IRS employees, and is the result of a request from Sen. Burr in 2016 following testimony by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that the agency had put an end to this practice.

“The rampant abuse at the IRS has continued and thrived for far too long,” said Senator Burr. “Whether it is the rehiring of previously terminated employees or continuing to give bonuses to poorly performing executives who can’t be fired – the delinquency at the IRS must end. It’s exactly actions like this that erode the public’s trust in their government. The American people are sick and tired of Washington at its worst. We have Americans paying the salaries of IRS workers who have repeatedly cheated the very government they took an oath to serve, and a Commissioner who won’t fire bad actors. The time to put a stop to these atrocious practices is now.”


Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- New legislation introduced by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) would protect local television markets across the country from corporate consolidation by permanently ending the so-called “UHF discount,” an obsolete FCC loophole that the Trump Administration wants to revive to benefit right-wing media conglomerates. If the UHF discount is allowed to go into effect, a series of pending corporate mergers, including one with the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, would dramatically reduce competition among local TV stations across the country.

“Our democracy depends on a diverse media that can address local needs and serve the public interest,” said Rep. Price.“The FCC’s decision to reinstate the technically obsolete UHF discount is a thinly veiled attempt to fast track mega mergers at the expense of Americans who want reliable and trustworthy news from their local broadcasters. The issue of continued corporate media consolidation isn’t a problem for just Democrats or just Republicans – it’s a problem for anyone who wishes to receive news and other programming from a local broadcaster that isn’t captive to a political or corporate agenda.”

“Preventing monopolies in local media and turning back the tide of corporate consolidation has never been more vital than it is today,” said Rep. Huffman.“In Eureka, California alone, the FCC’s recent decision to reinstate the discredited and antiquated UHF discount means that a single right-wing media owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, will control a majority of the news that my constituents in Eureka see on television, no matter which news broadcast they choose to watch. This is not the Soviet Union: Americans deserve a meaningful choice in their local news, and our Local and Independent Television Protection Act would ensure that every American has access to a variety of local news sources that report on the local – and national – issues they care most about.”

"Local television remains an important source of local news. It's especially important for people of color, Spanish speakers, elderly populations, low-income individuals, and others less likely to have cable TV and affordable internet access. Yet we're not getting the diversity of competing viewpoints and local content that we need from broadcasters because of runaway consolidation, aided and abetted by loopholes like the UHF Discount,”said Free Press Action Fund Deputy Director and Senior Counsel, Jessica J. González. “That discount is a relic of a bygone era, from a time when UHF signals were too weak to reach everyone. With today's technology, these signals are actually stronger than other broadcast channels. Yet the current FCC, despite its supposed focus on getting rid of obsolete technical rules, revived this one to pave the way for mega-mergers proposed by conglomerates like Sinclair. We thank Reps. Huffman and Price for introducing this bill to close that loophole."

As John Oliver recently pointed out, the Sinclair Broadcast Group has “must-run” segments and slanted polls that it requires all of their stations to run.

On April 20, 2017, President Trump’s Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai called a vote to reinstate the UHF discount, which allows television station owners to significantly increase their national reach. Federal law establishes a national television ownership cap to prevent any single company from owning television stations that collectively reach more than 39% of the country, a competition requirement to ensure the continuation of the diverse and local news sources essential to a robust democracy. The UHF discount, by contrast, makes this cap meaningless, letting media companies “discount” UHF stations (channels 14-83) by half when calculating whether the company is subject to the national television ownership cap. With the UHF discountreinstated, a single company can buy enough local TV stations to reach up to 78% of Americans, dramatically increasing their national scope, public influence, and control of household news content.

One day after the FCC’s reinstatement of the UHF discount, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it had entered an agreement to purchase Bonten Media Group for $240 million, expanding its reach in Northern California and elsewhere across the nation. With this purchase, Sinclair will own four of the seven commercial television stations in the Eureka, CA, community. The Trump administration’s reinstatement of the UHF discount is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a lawsuit was filed by several public interest groups.

Specifically, the Local and Independent Television Protection Act:

· Requires the FCC to act within 90 days to permanently end the UHF discount; and

· Grandfathers any stations owned prior to September 26, 2013, which is commensurate with the FCC’s previous efforts to end the UHF discount.

The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).

The legislation is supported by: Free Press Action Fund, Public Knowledge, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Common Cause, and Consumers Union.


Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02) is reintroducing his bipartisan Fruit and Vegetable Access for Children Act, a bill that will give our children greater access to healthy fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias.

The bill, which has the support of four Democratic and four Republican original cosponsors, will allow schools to have the option to use the money from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) to purchase additional forms of fruits and vegetables—fresh, frozen, canned, pureed, and dried—expanding the number of nutritious food options for schoolchildren.

Congressman Poliquin released the following statement:

“Our children should have greater access and more nutritious choices when it comes to the foods they eat at their school cafeterias,” said Congressman Poliquin. “As a parent, I believe it’s very important for our kids to have the opportunity to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, such as Maine wild blueberries, all school year round. I’m proud to join with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in pushing this bipartisan legislation forward.”

Said Nancy McBrady, Executive Director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, “Maine frozen wild blueberries are an example of an extremely healthy and delicious fruit that is frozen at peak ripeness that locks in its nutritional benefits and can be used all year round. The more options schools—and our children—have for consuming healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables, the better. The Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine is happy to support Congressman Poliquin's bill.”

According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there is overwhelming nutritional consensus that Americans should increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned and dried. In its various forms, fruit and vegetables are nutritionally similar. The FFVP, whose goal is to educate children on the foods they eat, ensures school children in low-income areas across the country receive nutritious snacks while learning about the many benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. By including these forms of fruit and vegetables, we ensure they have a comprehensive education.

Congressman Poliquin’s bipartisan bill would allow schools to maximize the value of program dollars. This bill ensures that schools have the options they need to continue to encourage a healthy diet throughout the school year. It gives schools flexibility in the use of their FFVP funds for the well-being of both our children and our schools.

The Megan Rondini Act Introduced

Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) filed H.R. 3415, the bi-partisan Megan Rondini Act, requiring hospitals to have a SAFE – Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner –available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, OR to have a plan in place to get that victim to another nearby hospital with a SAFE. The law honors young Texan Megan Rondini who committed suicide after being raped, failed by law enforcement, the University of Alabama, and the hospital.

Megan Rondini was enrolled at the University of Alabama when she was raped by a man from the richest family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After escaping her attacker, Megan went directly to the hospital for a rape kit, and contacted the police. The Hospital did not have a SAFE, a nurse or doctor trained in forensic procedure, on staff. The DNA from her rape kit was never properly examined, and its current whereabouts are publically unknown. She was dismissed, ignored, blamed, and forgotten. Feeling like she had nowhere to turn, Megan later took her own life.

“Rape is a crime that destroys the very soul of a victim,” said Congressman Ted Poe. Often times, it is a fate worse than death. A victim must relive their attack over and over again. I filed the Megan Rondini Act to ensure victims of crime have access to assistance and the ability to pursue justice. Hospitals across the country must have a SAFE on staff 24/7 or have a plan in place to get the victim to a nearby hospital that can provide forensic services. The failures that drove Megan to commit suicide must not be allowed to continue in our society. Victims must be given a voice and the ability to have evidence collected and tested to bring them justice. This legislation helps give them both.”

Pelosi Statement on Republicans’ Latest Empty Statement on Taxes

Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement after the White House, Senate and House Republicans released a detail-free joint statement on taxes:

“More than six months into the Trump Administration, and Republicans still have no real details for tax reform. Today’s threadbare joint statement shows Republicans continuing to flounder instead of inviting bipartisan progress on real tax reform for hard-working Americans.

“Republicans latest statement is light on details, but their goals have been clear all along: hand massive tax cuts to big corporations and the wealthiest, paid for on the backs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the middle class. Republicans will ransack the education and health care of hard-working Americans to fund deficit-busting tax breaks for billionaires.

“Democrats believe we need real tax reform that creates jobs for hard-working Americans and fuels economic growth, while ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share and ending tax breaks for big corporations hiding profits offshore. We will continue to oppose Republicans’ ceaseless trickle-down agenda.”

"Minibus" Spending Bill

Washington, D.C. - July 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House of Representatives voted to fund critical national defense programs through H.R. 3219, Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018. This appropriations package, also known as a “minibus,” included the Department of Defense, Military Construction – Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch funding bills.

“I remain committed to providing our armed forces with the tools and resources they need to complete their critical missions and protect the security of our nation. We cannot expect our nation’s military to defend against ever evolving threats without the ability to train, maintain equipment, and invest in new technologies. The only way to accomplish these goals is to modernize and reform the way our military operates. Today’s national security package tackles the readiness crisis of our military head on, while honoring the commitment we’ve made to our service members and their families,” stated Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM, 2nd).

Rep. Pearce continued to state, “National security also lies within energy advancement and development. New Mexico plays a vital role in the research, development, production, and disposal of nuclear resources that are fundamental to our nation’s security strategy. With strong funding to support these operations, New Mexico will continue to be a national leader in protecting the United States.

The funding package included a non-debatable provision that provides $1.6 billion to fund the construction of a physical barrier along the southern border. Rep. Pearce voted against this procedural motion earlier today.

“Today’s legislation was not perfect. The construction of a physical wall on the southern border will never be the solution. The only way to secure the border is through the use of modern technology and a comprehensive strategy for patrolling the border. I will continue to educate and work with my colleagues to make critical border security decisions that our nation needs, however, this bill does too much for those that protect our freedoms on a daily basis to vote against.”

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) voted Thursday for the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 3219), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives to enhance America’s safety through the construction of a border wall with Mexico. The bill fulfills the recent demand of a Ratcliffe-led coalition of lawmakers for the House not to begin its district work period until following through on President Trump’s request for border wall funding.

“I’m pleased my colleagues stepped up to the plate and joined me in meeting President Trump’s request to prioritize our national security through the construction of a border wall with Mexico,” Ratcliffe said.

“There’s no denying that inaction is simply no longer an option. The legislation we’ve just passed is long overdue, and I applaud it as a huge step forward in securing our borders once and for all.”

H.R. 3219 also contains $584.2 billion in funding to restore adequate military readiness and enhance homeland security, as well as $88.8 billion in funding for veterans’ benefits and programs, and for military housing and bases in the U.S. and around the world.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Shared News Report

Fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets, and switched to halal meat alternatives in an attempt to please its Muslim customers.

It has confirmed turkey ham and turkey rashers will be used instead in 185 of its stores, where all the meat will now be prepared according to halal rules.


Look Who Trump Will Donate His 2nd Quarter Salary To!


Not only is President Trump working harder than any president we’ve ever had, he’s doing it all for free.

President Trump has refused to accept a salary, and instead, donates it to charity.


President Trump is donating his second-quarter salary, totaling $100,000, to the U.S. Department of Education.


Congress fails to repeal Affordable Care Act

Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement on his vote against the amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan:

“I agree with President Trump that we should repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act at the same time. In 2015, we could have waited two years for relief, but we cannot now, when Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie McPeak says the state’s individual insurance market is ‘very near collapse.’ We have 350,000 Tennesseans who buy insurance in the individual market—songwriters, small businessmen and women, farmers—who are worried today that they may have zero options for insurance in just six months.

“In addition, I don’t think Tennesseans would be comfortable canceling insurance for 22 million Americans, and trusting Congress to find a replacement in two years. Pilots like to know where they’re going to land when they take off, and we should too.”

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) issued the below statement following today’s vote on President Trump and Senate Republicans’ latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

“Tonight is a victory for the millions of Americans who will not lose health coverage because Senate Republicans failed to pass their latest disgraceful attempt at a health repeal bill.”

“This is also a victory for the thousands upon thousands of Americans across the country who rallied, marched, and called their Senator to demand the right to affordable, quality health care. Your voices were heard. Tonight’s failed vote is a testament to your power – the power of the people, which we all know is greater than the people in power.”

“In the United States, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make or where you live – you should have access to quality, affordable health care, because health care is a human right.”

“The fight isn’t over. Republicans in both chambers have made it clear they’ll stop at nothing to enact their dangerous agenda. If we don’t stop them, they'll strip health coverage from millions of Americans, raise premiums, and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. We must remain vigilant and continue speaking up and out against those who would prefer to play politics with the nation’s health care system rather than earnestly work to improve it.”


Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced an amendment to the health care repeal bill to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The amendment, led by Senator Baldwin and Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), would direct Congress to eliminate all the provisions in the partisan repeal legislation that threaten to make health care unaffordable for those with pre-existing conditions.

“People are speaking out in opposition to this repeal effort because health care is personal. It’s personal for me too because when I was young, I had a childhood illness and was branded as a child with a pre-existing condition. I’ve heard from Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions who are scared that the protections they have today won’t be there tomorrow if Republicans pass repeal legislation,” said Senator Baldwin. “The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people's health care away. My amendment will protect access to affordable health care for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. This a guarantee that we must protect.”

Following Tuesday’s vote to begin debate, the Senate is currently considering amendments on the health care repeal legislation. Senators Baldwin and Hirono will introduce this amendment today and will push for a vote this week.

Specifically, this amendment would “eliminate provisions that threaten to make health care unaffordable for those with pre-existing conditions.” The current Republican health care repeal legislation would weaken guaranteed protections, rollback coverage of essential services, and could throw people with pre-existing conditions, struggling with a sickness, into a high-cost pool that could price them out of the health insurance they have today.

Norcross Provision to Help Vets Struggling with the Disease of Addiction Included in House Appropriations Bill

Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) successfully included a provision in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act that helps veterans struggling with the disease of addiction by directing the Department of Defense to set aside $5 million to study the connection between opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Our vets dedicate their lives to protecting us. The least we can do is dedicate money to help them fight the disease of addiction,” said Congressman Norcross. “We must do all we can for vets struggling with PTSD and opioid abuse – and I’m glad my commonsense provision is now part of the Appropriations Act.”

Norcross is the Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, a group of lawmakers from across the political spectrum who are united against the public health crisis. The growing opioid epidemic causes 75,000 drug overdose deaths a year and, according to the American Medical Association, veterans with PTSD are at particular risk of abusing opioids.

Noem Introduces Legislation to Reduce Poverty, Promote Financial Independence

Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Kristi Noem has introduced two bills that aim to improve the outcomes of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the country’s primary assistance program for low-income individuals and families.

“The best poverty reduction program out there is a good job,” said Noem. “Unfortunately, today’s programs too often perpetuate poverty rather than opportunity. This legislation aims to bring greater integrity and accountability to the TANF program while reaffirming its core mission: offering upward mobility and the opportunity for greater financial independence to hardworking Americans.”

The Improving Employment Outcomes of TANF Recipients Act, aims to increase the employment, job retention, and earnings of TANF recipients. To accomplish this, Noem’s bill would base a portion of the TANF block grant on a state’s success in helping TANF recipients enter, retain, and advance in employment.

Meanwhile, the TANF Accountability and Integrity Improvement Act, aims to bring more accountability to the program. More specifically, TANF currently requires states to ensure 50% of program recipients participate in work-related activities, such as working, searching for a job, or training for one. If states spend more than the federal government requires, the 50% threshold can be decreased. In extreme cases, the threshold can be reduced to 0%.

Some states are counting third-party spending as “state spending” and driving their apparent investments to artificially high levels. As a result, those states don’t need as many TANF recipients to be engaged in work-related activities in order to continue receiving full federal funding. Under Noem’s legislation, states would no longer count spending by third parties as state spending, meaning states would need to engage more adults in work-related activities in exchange for federal benefits, as the program was originally intended.

Of note, South Dakota does not count third-party spending as state spending in order to reduce the portion of TANF recipients engaged in work-related activities.

“We need to ensure other states follow South Dakota’s example,” said Noem. “By continuing to engage participants in work activities at the level intended, South Dakota has upheld the integrity of the program and ensured the support we provide through TANF is support that really helps struggling families.”


Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) introduced an amendment to H.R. 3219, the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, to combat veteran suicide. As the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) David Shulkin, M.D. recently noted, an average of fourteen out of twenty veterans committing suicide every day do not receive services from the VA. Congressman Murphy's amendment would allow VA funds to help more veterans access evidence-based care.

"It is tragically clear that we need to find new, better ways outside of the traditional system to reach and treat our veterans; the current system does not work for many and no one system can work for all," said Murphy, a Navy psychologist who currently treats veterans suffering from PTSD/Traumatic Brain Injury at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda.

"Allowing public-private partnership pilot programs to deliver innovative, evidence-based, accountable, forward-looking models of care to those who have served is crucial to improving veterans mental health care and turning the tide on veteran suicide."

Specifically, Murphy's amendment calls for greater ability for treatments to address the veteran suicide crisis by connecting veterans with community and non-profit mental health networks in order to provide expedited access to evidence-based mental health care services. Murphy’s amendment to the appropriations bill also gives VA Secretary Shulkin the authority to create an expedited credentialing process for veteran mental health networks to ensure they are delivering evidenced-based therapies with same-day access to care while demonstrating effective clinical patient outcomes.

Read the full text of the amendment here.

Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017 Approved by Homeland Security Committee

Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House Committee on Homeland Security today approved H.R. 3284, the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Daniel Donovan, R-N.Y. The bill authorizes funding for workshops to be held in cities across the country to train state officials, local officials, and the private and non-profit sectors on ways to prevent and respond to complex terrorist attacks. Orlando hosted a workshop in October 2014.

“Protecting our communities must be a top priority, and the Homeland Security Committee’s approval of our bipartisan bill is a step towards achieving that goal,” said Murphy. “The lessons Orlando learned during its 2014 workshop were critical in the emergency response to the ISIS-inspired Pulse nightclub attack last year. As we work to include Orlando on the list of cities that receive Urban Area Security Initiative funding, these training workshops are another way to help keep central Florida safe.”

Only cities that have received counter-terrorism funding through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program are eligible to host a workshop. UASI provides grants to cities to buy homeland security equipment, conduct training exercises, strengthen emergency response, and enhance security at vulnerable locations. Orlando received UASI funding in the past—so it is eligible to host a workshop—but has not received funding since 2015 due to a flawed formula. Murphy has been separately working with fellow central Florida representatives Val Demings, D-Fla, and Darren Soto, D-Fla, in an effort to get Orlando back on the list of cities that receive UASI funding.

During workshops, participants:
  • Review existing preparedness and response plans related to a complex terrorist attack and identify gaps in capabilities; Identify federal, state, and local resources available to address such gaps;
  • Improve situational awareness, recognize best practices, and encourage information sharing;
  • Examine health care system and clinical challenges unique to a complex terrorist attack that employs small arms and explosives;
  • Examine the roles of the community and bystanders in a complex terrorist attack;
  • Discuss a framework for immediate medical management of wounded near an attack site; and
  • Identify and share best practices and lessons learned from case studies in medical preparedness.

  • One of Eight People Leaked Closed Door Testimony -- Trey Gowdy Not Happy

    USA Politics Today

    Discussed Gowdy on CNN’s Outfront, “About eight hours ago, Adam Schiff and I looked Dan Coats in the eyes and we assured him that there would be no selective leaking of his testimony to us. And I’ll be damned if eight hours later, there aren’t three different leaks with what he told us.”


    Wednesday, July 26, 2017


    In a statement this morning, directly from his personal Twitter account, President Donald Trump shattered his predecessor's grand social experiment in the U.S. military. (Photo: President Trump speaks with General Mattis/Reuters/via Charisma News)

    "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military," he wrote. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."


    Congressmen React to Military Transgender Ban

    Washington, D.C. - July 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the following statement condemning President Trump’s cruel and discriminatory ban on transgender military service members from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces:

    “Today’s attack by the Commander-in-Chief on our military’s active duty personnel is appalling,” Representative Nadler lamented. “The arguments against allowing transgender service members to serve openly in our military reflect the same arguments that have been used against every other group that has been prohibited from serving in our country’s history – including black and Latino men, women, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. President Trump is attacking the very individuals he asks to risk their lives.”

    Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) released the following statement on President Trump’s tweets on transgender Americans serving in the military.

    “Tens of thousands of transgender Americans have bravely and selflessly served our military, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy every day. Like all Americans, they deserve the opportunity to wear the uniform regardless of their gender identity. President Trump’s bigoted decision will make America less safe and inhibit our military readiness. It is clear that President Trump is doubling down on his policies of hatred and it is the responsibility of all Americans – especially the Congress – to stand against this injustice.”

    Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus, issued the following statement after President Donald Trump tweeted that transgender Americans will no longer be able to serve in the U.S. military:

    “The President’s tweet attacking transgender service members is shameful and prejudiced. Those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country should not face discrimination from anyone, let alone their Commander in Chief. Last year, the Department of Defense implemented a policy to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military. Today’s guidance by President Trump, if carried out by the Department of Defense, to explicitly ban people who are already serving and wish to serve our country is a huge step back in the progress we have made in the name of diversity and inclusion. As member of the House Armed Services Committee and a veteran, I value every American who is willing and able to join the U.S. military. I urge the President to reverse his guidance, and to respect and support those who protect our country regardless of their gender identity.”

    Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement in response to President Trump's tweets on banning transgender Americans from serving in the military:

    "Our commander-in-chief should not ban Americans who are qualified to serve in our military and are willing to risk their lives for our country. This is an obvious attempt to distract from the Republicans' disastrous debate on health care."

    U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in response to President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

    “Servicemembers should be accepted on the basis of their ability to fight, train, and deploy without discrimination. Many transgender Americans have served honorably and capably – and countless others are serving now and would seek to serve in the future. President Trump should be thanking these servicemembers and veterans for their dedication and commitment to our nation instead of barring them from service. This rash and surprising Tweet contradicts the Department of Defense’s previous policy decision to allow transgender servicemembers to serve openly, and constitutes official discrimination.”

    Terry Sharpe: The Walking Marine

    Terry Sharpe is planning his 2017 Walk to raise awareness of the current Veteran suicide rate, which stands at 22 per day — the equivalent of one Veteran committing suicide every 65 minutes. Terry at age 66, will walk from Summerfield, NC to Washington, DC to bring attention to this terrible plight. That is a trip of 300 miles, some very hard miles, but Terry wants to bring attention to the Veteran’s Issues. Terry will be joined on his walk by Micheal Boncek who is also an avid walker devoted to drawing attention to Veteran issues.


    Wisconsin retail tech company offers to microchip its staff

    KTBS News

    A Wisconsin company is offering to microchip its employees, enabling them to open doors, log onto their computers and purchase break room snacks with a simple swipe of the hand.

    Three Square Market, also known as 32M, says it expects about 50 employees to take advantage of the technology. The chips are the size of a grain of rice and will be implanted underneath the skin between the thumb and forefinger.


    Steve Scalise discharged a month after shooting

    New York Post

    House Majority Whip Steve Scalise – who was critically wounded in a shooting at a baseball practice last month – has been discharged from a Washington hospital.

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center says the six-term Louisiana Republican was released from the hospital on Tuesday and is beginning “intensive inpatient rehabilitation.”

    It isn’t identifying the facility.

    The hospital says in a statement that Scalise (skuh-LEES’) was in good spirits and looking forward to returning to work once he completes his rehabilitation.


    President Donald J. Trump Proclaims July 26, 2017, as a Day in Celebration of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act


    - - - - - - -



    On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we celebrate the landmark legislation that marks our Nation's commitment to ending discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA's recognition of the inherent dignity of disabled persons solidified America's status as the world leader in protecting fundamental rights. Today, we pay special respect to the contributions of the more than 56 million Americans living with disabilities, and we look forward to further advancing accessibility for all those who need it.

    President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA on July 26, 1990, and for 27 years it has been instrumental in protecting the rights and liberties of people with disabilities and strengthening their access to everyday American life. Disabilities are an unavoidable part of the human experience veterans injured in service to their Nation, survivors of accidents and illnesses, children born with disabilities, and our elderly. Since its inception, the ADA has helped empower people living with disabilities by ensuring they have fair and just access to employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and public transportation.

    Americans are justifiably proud of the ADA and its accomplishments, but more can be done to protect the rights and dignity of Americans living with disabilities. Disabled Americans in the workforce already contribute substantially to our Nation's productivity and prosperity. We must continue to empower them by breaking down obstacles that prevent their full participation in the public and economic affairs of our Nation. In addition, my Administration will encourage American ingenuity and technological advancements in medicine and science, which will give millions of Americans with disabilities opportunities to work, engage in commerce, and connect with others in ways we could not have imagined 27 years ago.

    On the anniversary of the ADA, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering an environment that provides all Americans with the opportunity to pursue their American dream. Let us all take this time to refocus our efforts to support our fellow Americans and help them succeed, no matter the obstacles they may face.

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 26, 2017, as a day in celebration of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities that celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities and to renew our commitment to achieving the promise of our freedom for all Americans.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.


    Wisconsin House Democrats Urge State Officials to Reject Presidential ‘Voter Fraud' Commission's Request for Sensitive Information

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In response to an appeal by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for sensitive information on Wisconsin voters, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04), Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03), wrote a letter to the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette urging them to disregard the Commission’s request.

    “Let’s call the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity what it really is: A painfully transparent attempt by President Trump to substantiate his unfounded claims about voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election,” said Congresswoman Moore. “With Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the helm of this Commission – the architect of several restrictive voter suppression initiatives against communities of color for which he was sued by the A.C.L.U. on four separate occasions – I fear our country will once again see an influx of discriminatory policies reminiscent of the ‘grandfather clauses’ of the Jim Crow era. I simply cannot endorse the release of sensitive voter information to a Commission led by a man whose connections to organizations deemed ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center reach back over a decade.”

    “More than 8 months after the 2016 election, President Trump still cannot comprehend how he lost the popular vote to Secretary Clinton. Despite his place in the White House, he is still clinging to the false claim that there was widespread voter fraud and his sham President Commission on Election Integrity only serves to perpetuate that myth,” said Congressman Pocan. “President Trump’s sham commission will be used as a tool of discrimination and voter suppression, not as a way to strengthen and secure our electoral process. Wisconsin should join states across the country in rejecting President Trump’s demands to turn over data. Our voters deserve it.”

    “It is absolutely outrageous that in 2017 we still have politicians who are trying to make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote,” said Congressman Kind. “I urge the Wisconsin Elections Commission, in the strongest terms possible, to refuse requests by the Trump Administration to turn over Wisconsinites’ private information.”

    “Never before has the personal voting data of so many—over 200 million Americans—been compiled and stored in one source,” the Members of Congress wrote. “The collection of this information by the Commission creates an undue risk to the privacy rights of Wisconsin voters. While we note that your current position on this matter is to supply the Commission with publically accessible data and to charge a fee for the remaining information, we caution that your decision to even partially cooperate with this inquest exposes the Wisconsin electorate to significant, irreparable harm, especially in light of allegations of extensive efforts by Russia and others to interfere in our democracy. A price should not be placed on the privacy of our constituents.”

    House Passes Iran, Russia and North Korea Sanctions Bill

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) --The House of Representatives approved H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, by a bipartisan 419-3 vote.

    U.S. Representatives Martha McSally (R-AZ) released the following statement on The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support to increase economic and political sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea:

    “Iran, Russia, and North Korea are our top adversaries—threatening our national security, disrupting global stability, and defying the principles of freedom, justice, and equality that America stands to protect. The bill that we passed today with my strong support is one of the toughest sanctions packages Congress has ever passed—and also one of the most necessary. These countries are dangerous. It’s time these bad actors face consequences. Additionally, this sanctions package empowers Congress to review and disapprove of any sanctions relief extended to Russia. Congressional review in this matter is essential and appropriate.”

    Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) issued the following statement:

    “These sanctions put hostile regimes in Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang on notice,” said Congressman Meehan. “For eight years under President Obama, accountability took a back seat to accommodation when it came to our adversaries on the world stage. Each of these regimes continues to pursue campaigns of aggression and belligerence, but today’s bipartisan vote shows they will not go unpunished.”

    “These sanctions will hit these regimes where it will hurt, and they’ll limit our enemies’ access to the hard cash necessary to finance aggression, human rights abuses and support for terror. I’m pleased to see the legislation approved by the House and I hope the Senate acts to send it to the President’s desk for his signature promptly,” Meehan said.

    Ranking Member of the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, released the following statement on the House’s passage of H.R. 3346, the Russia-Iran-North Korea Sanctions Bill:

    "It is quite telling that the first major bill to be sent to President Trump is one that limits his authority, because members of both parties in both houses of Congress cannot trust President Trump to act on behalf of America’s interests when it comes to Russia. Mere months ago, Trump gave away national secrets to Russian diplomats and sold out our allies in the Oval Office. With new details constantly emerging that shed light on this administration’s many lies regarding its cozy relationship with Russia, Congress voted overwhelmingly to strengthen sanctions on Russia.

    “This bill sends a strong message to Russia and our allies: when the sitting President fails to do so, the US Congress will hold accountable anyone complicit in attempting to destabilize Western democracies.”

    Rep. Tom O’Halleran voted pass the bipartisan Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

    “I am pleased to see broad bipartisan support on sanctions for countries who disregard international laws and basic human rights,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “We must make it clear that the actions of these three countries will not be tolerated anywhere, and this legislation goes a long way to hold them accountable.”

    The legislation makes permanent existing sanctions on Russia over the country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine and cyber attacks in the U.S., and it implements new sanctions on Russian-financed companies involved in off-shore oil projects and individuals doing business with the Russian military or intelligence agencies. Included in the legislation are sanctions on Iran over their ballistic missile program, support of terrorist groups, and human rights violations, and it expands sanctions on the North Korean government and countries and organizations working with the Kim regime.

    “Our national security and the safety of our children is not a partisan issue,” continued O’Halleran. “We must continue to curb the rise of terrorism in the Middle East by preventing the sale of arms to and from Iran and halting the country’s ballistic missile program.”

    Additionally, the legislation includes a bill co-sponsored by Rep. O’Halleran that combats the funding of terror organizations and requires President Trump to develop a strategy for combatting the financing of terrorism and related forms of illicit financing.

    U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) released the following statement regarding the passage of H.R. 3364, Russia, Iran and North Korea Sanctions Act.

    "It speaks volumes that the first major bipartisan piece of legislation expected to come out of this Congress reins in this President’s authority. This tough package strengthens the ability of Congress to oversee the implementation of critical sanctions on some bad actors. Congress is sending a clear message to the world that we will not stand idly by as North Korea, Iran, and Russia threaten their neighbors and continue to undermine American interests at home and abroad," Rep. Pascrell said. “I call upon the Senate to pass the bill to hold these regimes accountable for their destabilizing actions and the President to then swiftly sign this sanctions package into law."

    Two weeks ago, Rep. Pascrell called on House leadership to bring a legislative package of Russia sanctions up for a vote in light of remarks by a White House aide indicating the Trump Administration was preparing to return shuttered Russian compounds seized as punishment for Russia's election interference. Rep. Pascrell also authored the No Russian DACHA Act to ensure that sanctions relief only comes in exchange for Russia ceasing the behavior that prompted these sanctions.

    In December, Rep. Pascrell wrote a letter to Congressional leadership asking lawmakers to take early action in the new Congress to confront Russia's geopolitical aggression. His letter stressed codification of economic sanctions against Russia for their occupation of Crimea.

    Rep. Pascrell has also been closely following the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier this month, he held a roundtable discussion with Korean-Americans in his district to discuss possible legislative action, including need for increased sanctions.

    Rep. Pascrell is a cosponsor of the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698), which expands sanctions against Iran with respect to the ballistic missiles program of Iran. This bill would use targeted sanctions to try and halt Iran’s ballistic missile program, requiring the President to identify and sanction individuals and entities contributing to Iran’s ballistic missile program.


    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), along with Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017 to reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program for three years. This legislation will also allow for the expansion of new programs within existing centers and the creation of entirely new teaching health centers while emphasizing the importance of establishing sustainable funding.

    “Bringing more physicians to Eastern Washington is one of my top priorities,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Our rural and urban underserved communities struggle to access the medical professionals they need and Teaching Health Center programs like the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic will help create a new generation of rural doctors—trained right here in our community.”

    “The benefits of Teaching Health Centers are widespread. They give aspiring primary care physicians – who are so crucial to providing personalized preventative care and ensuring health concerns are caught and treated early – the opportunity to train in a diverse setting,” said Tsongas. “And as I have seen in my own district at exceptional facilities like the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Teaching Health Centers provide communities with the next generation of physicians for their area.”

    “Expanding this program is critical to addressing the shortage of primary and specialty care physicians in rural and medically underserved communities,” said Denham. “This is one practical step toward ensuring we can both train and retain physicians in areas with the greatest need, such as California’s Central Valley.”

    “As fewer medical school graduates pursue careers in rural America, Teaching Health Centers provide critical health care services many families rely on,” said Valadao. “By reauthorizing the THC Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program, and prioritizing rural and medically underserved areas, our bill will ensure our most disadvantaged communities, like California’s Central Valley, have access to the primary care services they deserve.”

    “Developing pragmatic solutions that address the physician shortage crisis and encourage more bright, young medical students to practice in underserved and rural communities has been a top priority for me and my congressional district,” said Dr. Ruiz. “I have seen first-hand the dire effects of a lack of providers in underserved areas in my district. I am proud to work together in a bipartisan way to introduce the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017 that addresses the physician shortage and will help support and grow the much-needed next generation of providers in the Coachella Valley and across the nation.”

    “Teaching health centers are vital to ensuring that medical professionals can get the training they require to practice in areas where they are needed,” said Kilmer. “I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan effort to keep bringing quality medical care to our rural communities. Folks shouldn’t have to spend hours in the car just to see a doctor.”

    NOTE: Currently, the physician-to-population ratio in rural communities is stark. Only about 10% of physicians practice in these areas, even though almost a quarter of the population lives there. Compared to doctors who train in the traditional Medicare program, those trained at Teaching Health Centers are 82% more likely to practice primary care, 20% more likely to work in rural communities, and 55% more likely to work in underserved areas. This legislation will work to meet the needs of rural and underserved communities through access to primary care medical professionals.


    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) released the following statement after Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Republicans voted to proceed to consideration of Trumpcare:

    “By voting to advance Trumpcare, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Republicans once again affirmed their vision of less health care for Americans and more tax cuts for billionaires.

    “The stakes are high. If this bill passes, millions of Americans will lose coverage, premiums will skyrocket, and people with pre-existing conditions will be priced out of health care.

    “The fight to protect our health care is not over. We must keep making our voices heard against Republicans’ shameful proposals.”

    Watchdog Says Psychotropic Drug Link to Military and Veteran Suicides Warrants Federal Probe

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Despite highly touted efforts to curb the suicide rate among active-duty service members and veterans, suicides remain high and the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) says the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs need to fully investigate the role of prescription psychotropic drugs in these suicides.

    CCHR says an investigation of this link should not be limited to those committing suicide by drug overdose but also determine whether those killing themselves by gunshot, hanging or by other methods were taking or withdrawing from psychotropic drugs at the time. It should be a focal part of the Veterans Affairs commitment of more than $186 million in 2018 to prevent suicide, CCHR adds.

    Earlier this year, the Pentagon reported that 265 active-duty service members killed themselves in 2015, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years, according to USA Today. The number of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase until more than doubling to 321 in 2012.[1]

    Suicide—not combat—is the leading killer of U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East to fight Islamic State militants, the Pentagon statistics showed.[2]

    But according to CCHR and experts working with it, there are serious concerns about the relationship between military/veteran suicides and the increase of psychotropic drug prescriptions. According to Dr. Bart Billings, a retired Colonel and Medical Service Corps Officer in the U.S. Army, a surge of prescriptions since 2005 "coincides with the gradual increase, to this day, of suicides in the military. I feel there's a direct relationship," Billings told CNS News.[3]

    In 2014, CCHR presented evidence of this to the U.S. Senate's Veteran Affairs Committee calling, then, for an inquiry into the potential violence- and suicide-inducing effects of prescribed psychiatric drugs.

    That submission reported:

  • More than 110,000 Army personnel were given antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs while on duty in one year.[4]
  • Between 2005 and 2011 the military increased its prescriptions of psychoactive drugs (antipsychotics, sedatives, stimulants and mood stabilizers) by almost 700 percent, according to The New York Times.[5]
    92.8 percent of the Service Members who committed suicide were male, with 39.6 percent aged between 17 and 24.
    Antidepressants prescribed Service Members and veterans carry a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "black-box" warning of "suicidality" for those younger than 25.[6]
  • The age range of 41 percent of deployed American soldiers was 18-24. Those prescribed antidepressants are at serious risk of suicide, given the black box warning.
    Further, an average of 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014.[7]
  • The situation has not changed, with it being reported in March this year that the Defense Suicide Prevention Office says that most who die by suicide in the military are younger than 30. About 68 percent die by the use of firearms, and almost 25 percent by hanging.[8]

  • In October 2016, The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that even healthy adults who are taking certain antidepressants have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and violent behavior, according to the results of a systematic review. "While it is now generally accepted that antidepressants increase the risk of suicide and violence in children and adolescents (although many psychiatrists still deny this), most people believe that these drugs are not dangerous for adults. This is a potentially lethal misconception," warned the researchers, based at the Nordic Cochrane Centre and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.[9]

    Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the team said: "We found that antidepressants double the risk of suicidality and violence, and it is particularly interesting that the volunteers in the studies we reviewed were healthy adults with no signs of a mental disorder." The researchers say their results suggest that it is likely that antidepressants increase the number of suicides in people of all ages.[10]

    On May 25, 2017, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) introduced H.R.2652, theVeteran Overmedication Prevention Act of 2017 into Congress.[11] Thiscalls for a thorough and independent review of all suicides, violent deaths, and accidental deaths during a five-year period among veterans who received treatment furnished by the Department of Veteran Affairs during the five years leading up to their deaths. The review would be done by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine under an agreement with the VA.[12]

    CCHR says the legislation is a step in the right direction but points to the Department of Veterans Affairs saying it will increase spending on suicide prevention efforts by 7.5 percent to $186.1 million in 2018. And although a VA spokeswoman Gina Jackson calls this its "highest clinical priority,"[13] CCHR says that spending on and use of psychotropic drugs that may be driving veterans to suicide must be part of that priority.

    Add to this, Friedhelm Sandbrink, M.D., the VA's Acting National Program Director for Pain Management, reported that up to 75 percent of older veterans experience chronic pain. Such pain may be treated with opioids which carry a risk for overuse or misuse. Complicating matters is additional psychotropic drugs being prescribed with opioids.[14] Cocktails of opioids and benzodiazepines, for example, can be lethal. On August 31, 2016, the FDA announced that it was requiring changes to drug labeling, including patient information, to warn of the serious risks associated with the combined use of certain opioids and benzodiazepines. Risks include extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma and death. "It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together," said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D.[15]

    CCHR International has presented annual Human Rights Awards to individuals and families fighting for better treatment and care for military members and veterans—free of the influence of potentially harmful psychotropic drugs and cocktails of drugs. An example of the Award Winners is:

  • The parents of U.S. Marine Cpl Andrew R. White, 23, who died suddenly after being prescribed a "lethal cocktail of antidepressants, antipsychotics and analgesics," his father Stan White said. Mr. White and his wife, Shirley, have worked tirelessly to warn about the dangers of such prescribing. Retired California neurologist Dr. Fred Baughman Jr. supported them saying he is convinced that military doctors are overprescribing antipsychotic medications in combinations that can cause cardiac arrest, often resulting in death.[16] "The treatment of traumatized vets with psychiatric drugs is an enemy we never saw coming," Mr. White said in accepting the Human Rights Award.
  • All that Pat Mena's youngest son, Anthony (Tony), wanted to do when he graduated High School was to defend his country by joining the Air Force. He was deployed twice to Iraq and managed to dodge bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But what he couldn't dodge was the cocktail of psychiatric drugs he was prescribed upon his return. Like so many others returning from combat, Mena suffered from insomnia, restlessness and nightmares. He also complained of severe back pain. Between January of 2008 and his death in July 2009, Mena was prescribed no less than 35 prescription drugs, including numerous antidepressants, pain killers, tranquilizers and muscle relaxers.[17] Mrs. Mena wrote of Anthony's experience in the book You'll Be Fine, Darling: Struggling with PTSD after the Trauma of War.[18] In her acceptance of CCHR's Award, she stated: "Tony would want me to say this to everyone. 'When there is something wrong, you speak up.' He would be grateful for a group like CCHR for speaking up and also being a voice for so many. Please keep telling people to question their doctors. Keep in mind that thousands of people have died from drug intoxication. On a beautiful summer morning, Tony lost the opportunity to ever see another sun rise again. Keep supporting CCHR so that as a united voice, you can ensure this never happens to others and their loved ones."
  • The Navy S.E.A.L. Foundation speaks of the S.E.A.L.'s rigorous physical training, mental discipline and innate force that ensure his place amongst "the pinnacle of elite warriors." Former S.E.A.L, Mikal Vega, twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and a 22-year combat veteran, survived numerous dangerous combat operations and deployments only to be nearly killed by the cocktail of painkillers and psychiatric drugs prescribed him by military doctors. "Veterans are killing themselves at a rate of 22 a day—one every 65 minutes. They say it's because of the stresses of war, but 85 percent of military suicides never even saw combat. One in six American service members is on at least one psychiatric drug—antidepressants or powerful antipsychotics," Vega stated.[19] Speaking of CCHR's Human Rights Award and the need to inform others about adverse effects of psychotropic drugs, Vega said that this award "will serve as a reminder of the lives lost that have spurred us to action, and of our unification under the umbrella of this common cause of saving lives through the dissemination of truth."
  • Dr. Bart Billings Ph.D. is also the founder and director of the International Military and Civilian Combat Stress Conference. He was one of the first military professionals to disclose the link between psychotropic drug use and military suicides and submitted testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the link between psychiatric drugs and veteran suicide in 2010.[20] "Mental health cannot be achieved when one is given mind-altering drugs that directly interfere with their cognitive functioning, resulting in them being mentally incapable and, also in many situations, interfering with them meeting their basic human needs to survive," according Dr. Billings.[21] Dr. Billings book, Invisible Scars: How to Treat Combat Stress and PTSD without Medication, chronicles the VA & the Military's decision to use brain/mind altering medications for residual effects of combat stress, why they do it, the effects on veterans/soldiers.[22]

    CCHR encourages anyone whose family member is in the military, or who is a veteran, to consult a medical doctor if there are concerns about psychotropic prescription practices and also report any abuse to CCHR.As a nonprofit, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission and actions to educate others about psychotropic drug use. It produced a public benefit documentary for the Armed Forces, veterans and families, The Hidden Enemy.
  • Family Research Council Statement on Senate Vote on Motion to Proceed to Obamacare Repeal

    On Tuesday, the Senate agreed to proceed to a debate on H.R. 1628, the House-passed American Health Care Act of 2017. In order for the Senate to debate the important elements of Obamacare's repeal and replacement, senators needed first to support a procedural motion to begin consideration of H.R. 1628. Family Research Council (FRC) scored in favor of the motion to proceed to H.R. 1628.

    Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

    "Finally, the U.S. Senate has taken a crucial step toward repealing Obamacare, redirecting dollars away from the abortion giant Planned Parenthood and putting America's healthcare system on a path to recovery. For more than 7 years, Republicans have promised the American people that they would repeal Obamacare, they did so in 2015, and now Congress finally has a president who will put his signature on the legislation.

    "Family Research Council supported beginning debate on this health care legislation in order to get to amendments to repeal Obamacare with its massive expansion of subsidies for health care plans that cover elective abortion, to defund abortion organizations from mandatory spending programs and pull back on this onerous law that has harmed so many families. The motion to proceed was only the first step, and now senators need to support amendments to rid America of the moral, regulatory, and cost burden that the so-called 'Affordable' Care Act has been.

    "We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the many Members of Congress who make the protection of unborn children in the context of health care reform a high priority. The eyes of the pro-life movement are now intensely focused on the U.S. Senate as they vote on amendments to repeal Obamacare and replace it without also subsidizing elective abortion. We strongly support amendments to ensure that, if abortion funding protections on credits are struck on procedural grounds, that Americans' tax dollars are redirected in a way that does not subsidize abortion coverage.

    "We strongly oppose any amendments to continue funding for abortion organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. It's the moral responsibility of Republican senators to support the repeal bill and fulfill their campaign promises that helped them secure the congressional majority," concluded Perkins.

    AARP Statement on Senate Vote to Proceed on Health Care Bill

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In response to the Senate vote on the motion to proceed to consider a health care bill that would cut Medicare and Medicaid and impose an Age Tax on older Americans, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond released the following statement:

    "AARP is disheartened that a majority of Senators voted to move forward on a bill that would devastate millions of Americans. Today's vote means the Senate is one step closer to passing legislation that will price gouge people over age 50 and strip health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.

    "AARP will continue fighting to stop the Senate from passing any bill that increases costs, imposes an Age Tax, strips coverage from people, cuts Medicare, and cuts the Medicaid services seniors need to stay in their homes.

    "Any Senator considering voting for the health care bill should understand the consequences of ignoring AARP's 38 million members. People over age 50 overwhelmingly vote and they will remember who voted to give them a $13,000 premium hike. AARP will print every Senator's vote in AARP Bulletin, a publication read by 30.4 million people.

    "None of the current bills is the right way to fix health care. AARP stands ready to work with Congress on bipartisan solutions that will lower costs and improve care."

    AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name.

    Statement By Secretary John F. Kelly On Texas Smuggling Incident

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Statement By Secretary John F. Kelly On Texas Smuggling Incident:

    This tragedy demonstrates the brutality of the network of which I often speak. These smugglers have no regard for human life and seek only profits. The Department of Homeland Security and its partners in the U.S., Mexico and Central America will continue to root out these smugglers, bring them to justice and dismantle their networks.

    The dedicated men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement not only investigate and help prosecute horrific incidents like this but they and their U.S. Customs and Border Protection colleagues work hard day and night, 365 days a year, to prevent senseless deaths and injuries like these. They put their lives on the line to rescue and save the lives of those who attempt the treacherous journey north on the network of abuse and death.

    The Senate’s Latest Obamacare Replacement Effort will not improve the Nation’s Health, Affordable Care Act

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) --The below is a statement from John Auerbach, president and CEO, of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) on the Senate’s motion to proceed.

    “Each new iteration of Obamacare repeal legislation has failed to do what a health bill should: improve the nation’s health.

    We know—according to the Congressional Budget Office’s scores on any number of the attempted bills—that tens of millions of people will quickly lose access to health insurance and the preventive services and programs which keep them from developing debilitating and costly chronic diseases.

    That is, simply, the opposite of what a bill—intended to improve the nation’s health—should do.

    Continued attempts to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund would irreparably harm the nation’s health. States and communities rely on the hundreds of millions of dollars they receive annually to work on the critical health issues—including the opioid epidemic, lead poisoning, obesity, tobacco use and vaccine-preventable illnesses—facing their citizens.

    To date, any funding included in repeal legislation for the opioid crisis has been nowhere near enough to solve the problem and will not make up for the substantially larger cuts to Medicaid and the Prevention Fund.

    Estimates have found that the total coverage cost for people receiving treatment for substance misuse disorders could reach $220 billion over the next decade. And, people with substance misuse disorders often suffer from additional health problems – for example, mental illness and chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes – and need the routine access to care and services provided by Medicaid. As such, substance misuse treatment must remain part of the Medicaid integrated care system.

    TFAH encourages the Administration and Congress to start over and create a true healthcare bill that will improve upon Obamacare, keep people covered and safeguard the nation’s health.”

    Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.

    =====Event Announcement=====

    School Choice Debate to be held August 3!

    RNC Statement on Senate Health Care Bill

    Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement on the Senate's vote on the motion to proceed towards Obamacare repeal:

    "Republicans answered President Trump's call, taking another step towards fulfilling our promise to the American people to implement a better health care system," said Chairwoman McDaniel. "As Obamacare continues to collapse, millions of Americans are suffering from skyrocketing costs and crumbling marketplaces, yet Democrats continue to obstruct and resist. It is unfortunate that not a single Democrat agreed to proceed to vote on any fixes whatsoever to this disastrous Obamacare law. It’s time for the political games by Democrats to end. Americans deserve better.”

    Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    First Liberty Institute Attorneys Meet with Executive Agency on Draft HHS Contraceptive Mandate Rule

    Washington, D.C. - July 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On Monday, attorneys with First Liberty Institute held an on-the-record meeting with officials from the executive agencies tasked with reviewing rules related to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate following President Trump's Executive Order from May 4, 2017, entitled, "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty." During the meeting, First Liberty urged that the draft interim final rule leaked to the press last month and offering broad conscience protections be made final as soon as possible.

    Read First Liberty's letter provided to Director Mick Mulvaney on behalf of its clients at Monday's meeting by clicking here.

    "Our clients have been litigating against the government's effort to punish business owners and ministry leaders for following their religious beliefs and moral convictions since 2013," said Matthew Kacsmaryk, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty. "As President Trump recognized in the Rose Garden on May 4, it is time to reaffirm 'America's leadership role as a nation that protects religious freedom for everyone.' That starts by finalizing this draft interim final rule and ending years of litigation."

    First Liberty Institute currently represents the Insight for Living Ministries, the Bible-teaching ministry of Pastor Charles R. Swindoll, along with four retirement communities and two colleges associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.

    In late May, a draft of an interim final rule was leaked the press. The draft rule proposes to reverse guidelines instituted during the Obama administration. Rather than offer narrow exemptions limited primarily to churches and their auxiliaries, under the draft interim final rule, Trump administration officials appear poised to adopt broad exemptions based upon an individual, business, or organization's religious conscience or moral conviction.

    First Liberty is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty for all Americans.

    USW Opposes Trump Administration's New Voter Fraud Commission

    Pittsburgh, PA - July 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard released the following statement following the Trump administration's announcement this week regarding its newly formed commission to investigate voter fraud:

    "Despite no evidence to support the claims and despite the many issues our government should be focusing its efforts on, the Trump administration has chosen instead to launch a reckless and expensive investigation into what it asserts to be 'widespread voter fraud.'

    "This investigation, which will be led by Vice President Pence, found its roots in the November 2016 election when then President-elect Donald Trump went on a Twitter rampage about the popular vote, despite winning the presidency through the electoral college. He claimed he would have won the popular vote too if not for 'the millions of people who voted illegally.'

    "But the fact is these 'millions of people who voted illegally' don't exist. It never happened. State and local election officials have not found any evidence to support the claims, and the Trump administration itself hasn't offered anything either except some shady math and questionable studies. All we have are trumped-up allegations that merely distract the media and U.S. citizens from the chaos that has ensued within Trump's own cabinet, but we know better than to fall for them.

    "It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that this investigation is all just an effort to eventually legalize voter suppression, which is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time. Since 2008, state legislatures across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Some of these measures include strict voter ID laws, eliminating same-day voter registration, and cutting a full week of early voting.

    "These are the things the Trump administration should be investigating in regards to the voting booth. We should be protecting and enhancing everyone's ability to vote, not making it harder and definitely not asking states to hand over private information about their citizens, which is what the president's commission recently asked state election officials to do. Of course, nearly all of them have denied that request to at least some degree.

    "This probe into so-called 'widespread voter fraud' is not only a waste of time and money, it is also a violation of civil rights. Strengthening the voting process is something we all want, but this fraud squad does the exact opposite.

    "There is dignity in our democracy, and we have to fight to keep it that way. We must urge the Trump administration to call off this investigation and invest its energy in the issues that truly matter to the American people."