Friday, September 8, 2017


Source: Shelley Moore Capito - (R-WV)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, governors across the country and 11 national medical member organizations, urging them to utilize provisions of the Reducing Unused Medications Act in their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Introduced by Senators Capito and Warren, the bipartisan bill passed in 2016 as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. As a result of the senators’ work, federal law now allows prescriptions for Schedule II opioid medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, to be partially filled by pharmacists at the request of patients or doctors, reducing the number of unused painkillers in circulation.

Senator Capito also sent a separate letter to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. In the letter, she asked Governor Justice to describe the status of partial fill implementation in the state, strategies for increasing awareness of the new policies among the general public and health care professionals and additional federal efforts that would help in limiting the amount of unused medications in homes.

“Encouraging prescribers to embrace the partial fill option for their patients can help to reduce the number of opioids left over in homes across the country,” the senators wrote to Commissioner Gottlieb. They requested that the FDA’s Opioid Policy Steering Committee “consider how the new partial fill law may help advance the FDA’s goals of better managing the risk of opioids and requiring greater prescriber education.”

In their letter to governors, the senators wrote, “As public officials work together to address the opioid epidemic, we must continue to build partnerships, take creative approaches, and look for every opportunity – big or small – to implement policies that prevent addiction and save lives.”

Additional letters were sent to the leaders of 11 national medical member organizations that play a critical role in reducing the number of unused medications that wind up in bathroom cabinets across the country. “We hope that you encourage your members to embrace partial filling options, which encourages honest conversations between patients and their doctors about their pain, as well as how much medication they feel comfortable having in the home,” the senators wrote.

The organizations included the National Community Pharmacists Association, the American Association Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Dental Education Association, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Dental Association.

To read the letter to Governor Justice, click here.

To read the letter to Commissioner Gottlieb, click here.

To read the letters to governors, click here.

To read the letters to medical member organizations, click here.

Brown Calls on Equifax to Remove Forced Arbitration from Credit Monitoring, Following Data Breach

Source: Senator Sherrod Brown- (D - OH)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – is calling on Equifax to immediately remove forced arbitration from all services offered to customers following a data breach that exposed 143 million Americans to identify theft. Equifax is currently touting free credit monitoring and identify protection services for victims of the breach through its TrustedID product. However, Equifax included forced arbitration clauses in the terms of use agreement customers must agree to when signing up for the services – effectively forcing victims of the breach to sign away their rights to seek access to court.

“It’s shameful that Equifax would take advantage of victims by forcing people to sign over their rights in order to get credit monitoring services they wouldn’t even need if Equifax hadn’t put them at risk in the first place. If Equifax is genuine about wanting to protect customers, it must remove forced arbitration immediately from TrustedID and any other services offered to victims of the data breach,” Brown said. “This is just one more example why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule banning forced arbitration is badly needed to protect the rights of working Americans.”

Many victims of the Equifax breach were likely enrolled through their credit card company or another third-party credit provider, and may not even know they are customers of Equifax.

Brown is cautioning victims of the breach to carefully read all fine print before signing up for TrustedID or other Equifax products.

The arbitration clauses contained in Equifax’s terms of use agreement to TrustedID are highlighted below. The complete agreement is available here.

Booker, Lee Introduce Bicameral Bill to Remove Confederate Statues From Capitol

Source: Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a bicameral bill in the Senate and House to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. The Confederate Monument Removal Act would remove all statues of people who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from the National Statuary Hall Collection within 120 days.

“The National Statuary Hall Collection is intended to honor American patriots who served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to our nation,” Senator Booker said. “Those who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space.

Booker continued, “The Capitol is a place for all Americans to come and feel welcomed, encouraged, and inspired. Confederate statues do not do this -- they do the opposite. To millions of Americans, they are painful, injurious symbols of bigotry and hate, celebrating individuals who sought to break our nation asunder and preserve the vile institution of slavery. These Confederate statues belong in a museum where they can be given proper historical context, not venerated in the U.S. Capitol." (Audio of this quote can be found here).

“In the wake of Charlottesville, it’s abundantly clear that much work remains to root out racism from our society. Across the country, Confederate statues and monuments pay tribute to white supremacy and slavery in public spaces. These hateful symbols should have no place in our society and they certainly should not be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee said.

“Though we’ve made tremendous progress as a nation in our quest for social, racial and economic justice, we cannot ignore or forget that Confederates fought fervently to preserve the institution of slavery and keep African Americans in chains. It’s past time for Congress to reject these symbols of racism and demand that our public monuments respect and uplift human dignity.”

The National Statuary Hall Collection was created in 1864 with a law that allows states to select two statues of deceased individuals to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Under the Confederate Monument Removal Act, states can reclaim Confederate statues that are currently part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Statues that are not reclaimed by states would be turned over to the Smithsonian.

The Confederate Monument Removal Act is cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and 46 members of the House of Representatives.

Blumenthal Statement on Senate Vote to Raise the Debt Ceiling, Fund the Government, and Provide Disaster Relief for Hurricane Victims

Source: Senator Richard Blumenthal- (D - CT)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released the following statement after the Senate voted to raise the debt ceiling, extend government funding through December 8th, and provide $15.25 billion in disaster relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“Today's vote falls far short of a long-term solution for any of the fiscal challenges facing our nation, but it is a positive step that will keep the lights on. The Senate acted swiftly to provide critical emergency funding for communities devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but much more is needed. We funded the government for another three months, but short-term funding measures are no way to run a government,” said Blumenthal.

Congress Urged to Pass Wildfire Funding Fix in Any Future Disaster Aid

Source: Senator Michael F. Bennet - (D - CO)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- With fires blazing across the West, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a bipartisan group of senators urged Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to include a wildfire funding fix in any future disaster aid legislation that passes through Congress.

This week, Congress passed a bipartisan funding bill that helps with the cost of fighting the wildfires across western states this summer. However, the funding bill did not fix the long-term problem of consistently underfunding fire suppression, which currently forces federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to steal funds from fire prevention and other non-fire programs to fight fires, so-called "fire borrowing."

Wildfires have burned almost 8 million acres of land across the West this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate from their homes, and the U.S. Forest Service has already spent more than $1.7 billion this year to put out fires.

"We stand ready to work with our colleagues in a bipartisan way in Congress to do everything we can to ensure the victims of Hurricane Harvey get the assistance they need," the bipartisan group of senators wrote. "As we work to assist Texas and Louisiana on the road to recovery, please do not forget about wildfires - the natural disaster currently raging through the West.

"We ask that any disaster aid package or other must-pass legislation that passes through Congress include a wildfire funding fix. This fix is long overdue and people throughout the West desperately need our help."

In addition to Bennet, the letter's signers include Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID) Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Click HERE for a copy of the letter.


Source: Senator Tammy Baldwin - (D - WI)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has called on leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the Equifax data breach.

“I write today to urge you to hold a hearing on an issue impacting the lives of millions of Americans – the recently reported data breach at Equifax, one the nation’s largest consumer credit reporting agencies,” wrote Senator Baldwin, a member of the Commerce Committee. “American consumers deserve answers about this breach and the actions of Equifax executives before this breach was made public.”

Senator Baldwin’s letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) is available here

Senate Passes 3 Public Health Bills to Help More American Families Lead Healthier Lives

Source: Senator Lamar Alexander - (R - TN)

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Senate this week passed three bipartisan public health bills to help more American families lead healthier lives. The three bills were overwhelmingly approved in April by the Senate health committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

“These bills each take important steps to help more American families lead healthier lives,” Alexander said. “These bills work to support states in screening and linking to follow-up care for infants with hearing loss; improve federal programs to prevent diabetes and other diseases; and improve public health preparedness to combat the Zika virus. I am glad the Senate has passed these important pieces of legislation, and I urge the House to do the same.”

The three bills passed by the Senate health committee in April and this week by the full Senate include:

· Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) – Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act (S. 652): If you’re a parent with a newborn, infant, or young child, this bill will support state-based efforts to screen them for hearing loss and ensure proper follow-up care, including diagnosis and early intervention.

· Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) – National Clinical Care Commission Act (S.920): This bill will create a commission of leading experts to study complex metabolic or autoimmune diseases, like diabetes. The commission will recommend improvements to federal programs that work to help prevent diseases like diabetes or educate patients on their condition.

· Sens. Angus King (I- Maine), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act (S.849): This bill will improve public health preparedness capabilities to help combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases that threaten public health by reauthorizing and strengthening key programs that support state and local mosquito surveillance and control efforts and response activities to protect against infectious diseases, such as the Zika virus.

DHS Signs Jones Act Waiver

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In recognition of the severity of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke approved a waiver of the federal Jones Act. This waiver will ensure that over the next week, all options are available to distribute fuel to states and territories impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, both historic storms. The waiver will be in effect for seven days after signature and is specifically tailored to transportation of refined products in hurricane-affected areas.

“This is a precautionary measure to ensure we have enough fuel to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of this potentially devastating storm,” said Acting Secretary Duke.

“Hurricane Harvey significantly disrupted the distribution of fuel across the Southeastern states, and those states will soon experience one of the largest mass evacuations in American history while at the same time we’ll see historic movements through those states of restoration and response crews, followed by goods and commodities back into the devastated areas.”

The Jones Act prohibits the transportation of cargo between points in the U.S., either directly or via a foreign port, or for any part of the transportation, in any vessel other than a vessel that has a coastwise endorsement (e.g. a vessel that is built in and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States). The last Jones Act waiver was issued in December 2012, for petroleum products to be delivered for relief assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

September 8, 2017 Jones Act Waiver (PDF)

Perdue Calls on Congress to Fix Forest Service Fire Funding Problem

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today called on Congress to address the way the U.S. Forest Service is funded so that the agency is not routinely borrowing money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Perdue argued that taking funds from prevention efforts only leaves behind more fuel in the forests for future fires to burn, exacerbating the situation. Perdue made his remarks during a ceremonial swearing in of new Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke at the Department of Agriculture.

Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, chewing up a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. The agency has had to borrow from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Perdue said he would prefer that Congress treat major fires the same as other disasters and be covered by emergency funds so that prevention programs are not raided.

Perdue’s verbatim comments are as follows:

“I’ve had serious concerns about an issue. And I want to be very clear about it. You can have the right leadership. You can have the right people. I believe we have the right leadership. I believe we have the right people. I believe that we have the right processes and the right procedures of attacking and fighting fires. But if you don’t have the resources and the means of dependable funding, that’s an issue.

“Every year, when we have to take, in the Forest Service, and hoard our appropriated dollars in order to have money to fight the fires, where we know they are going to be insufficient, that’s wrong. We need with all of our heart and strength and mind, Tony, to appeal to the appropriators in Congress, and the law writers, to fix the fire borrowing problem once and for all.


“As good as you are, and as well as you know the Forest Service, there’s no way you can manage the Forest Service, not knowing what you’re going to have to spend. That is not the way appropriations should work. I’ve communicated that to OMB, I’m communicating that to members of Congress, I’ve communicated that to the president. And by golly, we hope we’re going to get something done about it this year. I think the momentum is there, along with other disasters.

“I met yesterday with [Office of Management and Budget] Director Mulvaney. We described the need and the issue of a permanent fix and I think we’re along our way to get there. Tony’s going to have to meet with members of Congress and to persuade them that’s the ultimate solution so we can manage ahead of time.

“I’ve told people the analogy – it’s like eating your seed corn. You know, when you have to spend so much fighting fires, you can’t spend the money that’s appropriated to prevent forest fires. You know, Smokey wants us to prevent forest fires, don’t you, Smokey?

“You know the facts. Our budget has moved from 15 percent of fire suppression to over half – 55 percent-plus. It may be more than that this year, in having to fight fires. And there’s no way we can do the kind of forest management and the prescribed burning and harvesting and insect control, all those kinds of things that diminish fires.

“Fires will always be with us. But when we leave a fuel load out there because we have not been able to get to it because of a lack of funding, or dependable funding, we’re asking for trouble. We’re asking for disasters, year in and year out. And that’s what we hope to get fixed.

“I want you all to know that I’m fighting hard for that. Tony Tooke’s going to fight hard for that. This whole department at USDA is going to fight hard to communicate to Congress and the administration that we need a permanent fire funding and stop this fire borrowing once and for all. So, thank you all for understanding that and understanding where we need to devote our resources.”

Wright-Patterson AFB to provide safe haven to aircraft in path of Hurricane Irma

Source: The U.S. Airforce

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is receiving aircraft and their associated aircrews evacuating from several military installations threatened by approaching Hurricane Irma.

Eight F-15 Eagles from the 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, landed at Wright-Patterson AFB Sept. 7, 2017.

The F-15s are expected to be joined by eight Navy P-8A Poseidons and six Navy P-3C Orions from Patrol Squadron Thirty, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida; and three C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

Col. Bradley McDonald, 88th ABW commander, spoke to the importance of providing hurricane relief efforts and assistance. He said support was already provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey by the 88th ABW and Reserve partners, the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB.

"Our hearts go out to all those impacted by Hurricane Irma, and we are grateful that we have the opportunity to help and support those in need," McDonald said. “We have the resources and capabilities to be a safe haven for aircraft, both Air Force and our sister services, that need to move out of the potential path of Hurricane Irma.”

Anticipated aircraft seeking safe haven include KC-130 Super Hercules from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and F/A-18 Hornets from NAS Paxtuxent River, Maryland.

Additionally, the colonel announced that 100 of the base’s medics and equipment are prepared to deploy as part of an emergency medical clinic capability and are awaiting orders.

Base officials here are closely watching the approaching storm’s track and intensity.

Air National Guard responds, too

Meanwhile, a team of six personnel from the 269th Combat Communications Squadron at Springfield-Beckly ANGB, Springfield, Ohio, left Sept. 7, with a truck and trailer full of equipment to provide communications assistance in Puerto Rico.

Capt. Craig Conner, the 269th Combat Communications Squadron detachment commander, is one of the personnel going to Puerto Rico.

“We started preparing at the beginning of this week. We can provide a quick response to enhance much-needed emergency communications,” he said. “It’s something we expect. We understand there is a great need, and we are looking forward to providing assistance.”


Source: Texas Values

Austin, TX - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Texas Values today joined 32 state family policy organizations from across the country supporting a Colorado cake shop owner who is being forced by the government to make a cake with a specific theme: celebrating a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The Colorado government entity also required the owner, Jack Phillips, to re-educate his staff, most of whom are his family members—essentially telling them that he was wrong to operate his business according to his faith. He must also report to the government for two years, describing all cakes that he declines to create and the reasons why. As a result of this ruling, Phillips has lost an estimated 40 percent of his business.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed for the U.S. Supreme Court case Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Texas Values argues that legal decisions against the defendant, Phillips, undermines a constitutional firewall against compelled speech and will drive from the marketplace creative professionals who dissent from state-mandated orthodoxy on matters of ‘politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’”

Said Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values:

“The First Amendment protect religious liberty and freedom of speech and by no means gives government power to compel artists such as Jack Phillips to express someone else’s message, particularly on an issue such as marriage that has been widely debated in our country. We Texans are proud of our heritage of individual liberty, and we urge the High Court to stand up for our first freedoms by upholding Mr. Phillips’s right to express himself – or to choose not to express himself – according to the dictates of his own conscience, and not based on force by the government.”

Click here to see the legal brief.

The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision from May 2014. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to design custom cakes that celebrate same-sex ceremonies if the shop designs cakes for opposite-sex ceremonies

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Phillips to design a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted, but that he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony. Phillips regularly declines opportunities to create custom cakes for events that violate his convictions, including Halloween cakes, anti-American cakes, adult-themed cakes, cakes containing alcohol, and cakes that would disparage others.

Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, picketed Phillips and filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which eventually ruled against Phillips. The same-sex couple was easily able to obtain their desired rainbow-themed cake for free from another nearby cake artist.

In contrast to the ruling against Phillips, the commission found in 2015 that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of creed discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage. The commission found those bakers had the right not to create custom cakes based on the requested message.

More about the background of the case here.

National Review Senior Fellow and former prospective Presidential candidate David French is legal author for the brief.

Texas Values is a nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas.

Related News: Life Legal Files Joint Amicus Brief with SCOTUS in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

House Passes Disaster Relief, Sending Bill to Trump

Source: NBC News
Source: Texas Governor Gregg Abbott

Texarkana, TX - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- NBC News has reported:

The House passed a $15 billion disaster relief package Friday morning with a broad bipartisan majority, sending the measure to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law later in the day.

With the cleanup efforts from Hurricane Harvey running out of money and Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, Congress acted quickly, taking only three days to move the measure through both legislative bodies. But the bill, which includes a deal struck between the president and Democratic leaders to include short-term extensions of overall government funding and the nation's debt ceiling, saw sizable defections among Republicans in both chambers.

Read more by clicking here...

Governor Greg Abbott issued the following statement after Congress passed a $15.3 billion relief package in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

"I thank the bipartisan and overwhelming majority of Congress that voted in favor of this disaster relief bill,” said Governor Abbott. "Although the recovery process is just beginning, Texans can rest assured that our federal partners are with them in their time of need. This initial down payment passed by Congress will go a long way in helping victims of the storm rebuild their lives and their communities."

Life Legal Files Joint Amicus Brief with SCOTUS in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

Source: Life Legal Defense Foundation

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Life Legal has collaborated with the Bioethics Defense Fund in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court yesterday in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The brief was written on behalf of the American College of Pediatricians and other pro-life health professionals.

As you may be aware, the Masterpiece case involves a baker who was asked to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The baker, Jack Phillips, said he could not use his artistic talents to give approval to a marriage that violated his religious beliefs. In response, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips' religious beliefs were illegal and prohibited him from designing any wedding cakes, which resulted in the loss of 40% of his business. The Commission imposed draconian reporting requirements on Phillips, forcing him to provide a detailed account of the reasons for any orders he declines.

So why would Life Legal, a pro-life law firm, file a Supreme Court brief in support of a baker?

If the State of Colorado can destroy Phillips' business because he chooses not to use his skills to create a product that expresses the state's sentiment on a controversial issue, what is to stop a state from forcing any professional to violate his or her deeply held belief in furtherance of the state's viewpoint?

Our concern is that the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is "likely to have rapid and lasting impact on the rights of medical professionals to practice their professions consistently with their consciences and the teachings of their faiths on issues of life and death—or indeed to practice their professions at all."

"Masterpiece Cakeshop has enormous implications for the First Amendment rights of everyone in the workplace, especially those whose deeply held beliefs require them to opt out of certain practices," said Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. "We have seen increasing pressure on health care professionals, in particular, to perform or facilitate abortions or risk losing their livelihoods. Life Legal trusts that the Supreme Court will adhere to precedent in guarding First Amendment freedoms, including protections against laws compelling speech and activities that violate religious and conscience objections."

Click here to read the brief

Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation.

Judicial Watch: Court Hearing on Monday, September 11, Regarding Taxpayer Lawsuit over San Francisco's Sanctuary Policy

Source: Judicial Watch

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Judicial Watch has announced a court hearing will be held on Monday, September 11, 2017, before Judge Harold A. Kahn regarding Judicial Watch's taxpayer lawsuit against San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department (SFSD) to prevent the use of taxpayer funds on policies "that prohibit or restrict SFSD personnel from sharing ... immigration-related information with federal immigration law enforcement officials." The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Cynthia Cerletti, a taxpayer of the city and county of San Francisco, in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco (Cynthia Cerletti v. Vicki Hennessy (No. CGC-16-556164)).

In its court filing opposing Sheriff Hennessy's effort to have Ms. Cerletti's lawsuit dismissed, Judicial Watch argues:

"Sheriff Hennessy's refusal to share basic information about the release of deportable criminal aliens in her custody – the date, time, and place of their scheduled release – plainly frustrates Congress' clear purpose in enacting section 1226(c). By refusing to share release information, Sheriff Hennessy allows deportable criminal aliens in her custody – aliens Congress plainly intended to be detained upon release from the custody of [law enforcement agencies] such as SFSD – to escape federal immigration officials' grasp. Her restrictions enable aliens who have committed aggravated felonies or other crimes deemed sufficiently serious by Congress to warrant detaining them and denying them bond or conditional parole to remain at large pending removal. Not only might such persons pose a further danger to the community – which was one of Congress' main concerns – but federal immigration officials must spend additional time and resources and assume unnecessary risk to themselves, the aliens, and others locating and apprehending them."

"San Francisco's sanctuary policy is illegal and dangerous," stated Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. "San Francisco and other sanctuary cities are on notice that taxpayers can challenge these unlawful policies in court."

The court hearing is scheduled for:

Date: Monday, September 11, 2017
Time: 9:30 a.m. PT
Location: Superior Court of California
400 McAllister Street
Department 302
San Francisco, CA 94102-3680
Civic Center Courthouse

Robert Patrick Sticht, a Los Angeles-based attorney, is serving as lead counsel in the Cerletti litigation.

For all recent filings in this case, click here.

Save the Children Prioritizes Recovery of Child Care Centers, Schools in Texas in Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Source: Save the Children

Fairfield, CT - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years has damaged or destroyed an estimated 40 percent* of child care and early education centers in the greater Houston area. Save the Children is working with local education partners across the Lone Star state to help restore these centers so children can begin to recover and get back to learning.

"Children can begin to cope when they are able to interact and play with their peers and resume a normal routine," said Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Save the Children's senior director of U.S. emergencies. "That is why it is so important to get these children back into daycare and preschool classrooms. It is essential for them to stay engaged and focused on learning during this stressful time."

Save the Children is the national leader in helping restore child care and early education centers after emergencies, and helped lead such efforts in Texas in 2008 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and in New Jersey and New York in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The global humanitarian organization, as part of a coalition of local and state partners, has been assessing the greater Houston area's child care recovery needs, and working to ensure local families – including those displaced and living in evacuation shelters – can once again access child care and early education programs. It is also planning to meet the needs of families who, because of the impact of the storm, have a new need for child care services.

"I have met many children in the area shelters we're supporting who can't wait for school to start and see their friends," said De Marrais. "Our priority is to make sure the children and families affected by this hurricane are able to regain a sense of normalcy as soon as possible, and getting these kids back in school will help that process."

Nearly half the schools in Houston were also impacted by the record-breaking storm, and with some schools planned to reopen as early as Monday, Save the Children is helping make sure school-age kids can have access to schools and after-school programs. It also plans to help secure and distribute essential school supplies damaged by Hurricane Harvey, including books, computers, sports, band and art equipment and supplies, and support efforts to refurbish libraries and playgrounds.

Save the Children's emergency response team has been on the ground in Texas since before the storm hit, working to meet children and families' immediate needs. It has established Child Friendly Spaces in evacuation shelters in areas disrupted by the storm, as well as distributed essential supplies to shelters, such as portable cribs, strollers and infant and toddler hygiene supplies. Save the Children's Child Friendly Spaces are safe, designated areas where children can play, socialize and begin to recover after a disaster, while allowing their parents to concentrate on addressing immediate and longer-term recovery needs.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future.

Video: Protesters Disrupt Public Advocate at White House

Source: Public Advocate USA

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Protesters crashed and disrupted Public Advocate president Eugene Delgaudio as he concluded a statement about the reversal of President Donald Trump's standing executive order on transgender policies in the nation's school system by out of control Obama Administrative holdovers in the Department of Education.

Delgaudio was asking for President Trump to correct the intent of a "secret legal memorandum" issued earler by Education bureaucrats and demonstrators started chanting "Hey Hey Ho Ho, Donald Trump has got to go".

Delgaudio said this in part:

"Mr. President, America applauds your leadership and reversals of many corrupt Obama policies that attacked America's children and their privacy through a so-called Transgender bathroom policy ordered by then president Obama. Now, today, a secrect legal memorandum seems to have been distributed without serious public notice or media scrutiny of any kind that reverses your own actions to protect millions of Christian and other morally traditional American families. Please quickly correct this sneak attack to undo your own proper restraint of those who would interfere or otherwise propagandize their anti-traditional family practices on innocents, " said Delgaudio

See the video

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Rules in Favor of Invocations before Jackson County Board of Commissioners Meetings

Source: First Liberty

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit sitting en banc affirmed the decision of a federal district court judge and ruled today that the Board of Commissioners in Jackson County, Michigan—represented by First Liberty Institute—may open its meetings with invocations. The commissioners offer invocations on a rotating basis and are free to act according to their own consciences by delivering either an invocation or offering a moment of silence.

"Today's decision further solidifies what the U.S. Supreme Court has now twice said: Invocations before government meetings are constitutional and an important part of our nation's history and heritage," said Ken Klukowski, Senior Counsel at First Liberty.

In Marsh v. Chambers (1983) and Town of Greece v. Galloway (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court found invocations before government meetings to be fully consistent with the Constitution and an important part of America's history and heritage.

First Liberty also represents the commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina (Lund v. Rowan County), whose case was heard en banc in March 2017 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In July, the Fourth Circuit ruled against the Rowan County commissioners in a split 10-5 vote. First Liberty is currently considering an appeal of the Rowan County decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

Houston Texans Player Jon Weeks Releases T-Shirt to Support Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Source: Athletes Brand

Scottsdale, AZ - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Houston Texans long snapper Jon Weeks has teamed up with Athletes Brand on a limited edition t-shirt to help fellow Houstonians in the wake of unimaginable devastation that was wrought by Hurricane Harvey throughout Texas. 100% of t-shirt profits will benefit a hurricane relief fund established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and housed under the Greater Houston Community Fund (GHCF).

Though officially released today, the t-shirt has already helped raise more than $2,300 for the benefiting fund. A relief effort spearheaded by J.J. Watt, Jon’s teammate, has helped garner nearly $19 million at the time of this writing. While the amount of critical funds raised varies greatly, the root of their efforts is one in the same.

“(Southeast) Texas has suffered previously unimaginable devastating loss. In the midst of frightening chaos during the multi day storm, came shining tales of hope - images of neighbor helping neighbor,” said Jon Weeks, in a statement on his Instagram page. Thank you to our brave first responders, neighbors in their bass boats, our local affiliates and their incredible reporting, and to the Cajun Navy. We are all Houston Strong. There are many ways to give to Hurricane Harvey Relief. (The t-shirt campaign) is one of them. We love you, Houston. We will get through this.”

The limited-edition “Houston Strong” t-shirt can be purchased from Co-designed and imagined by Weeks, the shirt features a Houston skyline that takes on a hand drawn look, an ode to the people of Houston who are rebuilding the city by hand and extending a hand to one another every step of the way. The tri-blend shirt is available in Men’s, Women’s, and Youth options.

For more information about Weeks’ campaign, click here.

NLC Statement in Response to House Passage of the SELF DRIVE Act

Source: The National League of Cities

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the SELF DRIVE Act (HR3388), a bill that provides for information on highly automated driving systems to be made available to prospective buyers. In response to House passage The National League of Cities released the following statement:

"City leaders welcome the promise of safer roads and reduced congestion that autonomous vehicles (AV) can offer our communities. As AV legislation advances, we call on Congress to ensure a safe and effective rollout of AVs on city streets. Cities have been the testing ground for this technology, and local leaders remain committed to ensuring that AVs are integrated onto our roads in a safe and timely manner.”

Chabot Praises Court Decision to End Overtime Rule

Source: House Small Business Committee

Washington, D.C. - September 8, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Last week, a federal judge struck down the Obama administration’s costly Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule. House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) commended the decision in the following statement:

“Small business owners, and their employees, can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they will have to worry about one less burdensome rule that hurts their business or affects their job. This is an issue the Committee has been working hard to reverse. I look forward to working with the new Administration as the Department of Labor continues to get feedback from stakeholders about what would be most favorable to small business owners,” said Chairman Chabot.

Chairman Chabot and Committee Republicans have focused on the DOL overtime rule throughout the 114th and 115th Congress.

The Committee has held numerous hearings and roundtables and sent letters explaining the damage this rule would cause to small businesses.

The Department of Labor is still inviting stakeholders to submit public comments on the overtime rule. For more information, the Committee has put together a Regulatory Watch page on our website to track regulatory proposals that have been published in the Federal Register and are open for public comment.