Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bill Introduced to to Combat Gang Violence and Enhance Public Safety

Source: House Representative Raul R. Labrador (R-ID, 1st)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) have introduced the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697) to combat gang violence by criminal aliens and enhance public safety.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has found that membership of violent transnational gangs is comprised largely of foreign-born nationals. In order to protect Americans from these violent gangs, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act ensures that alien gang members are kept off our streets by barring them from coming to the United States and detaining and removing them if they are criminal gang members or participate in gang activity.

Additionally, the bill ensures that criminal alien gang members are not eligible for immigration benefits, such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and temporary protected status, which are reserved for those around the world most in need of protection.

Representatives Comstock, King, and Labrador and Chairman Goodlatte issued the statements below on today’s introduction of the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act.

Congresswoman Comstock: “In Northern Virginia there have been at least eight brutal murders tied to the transnational MS-13 gang since last November. That is unacceptable, and this legislation will help get these violent gang members off our streets. MS-13 preys upon and intimidates those who have come to our country to seek a better life. The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act will give important tools to law enforcement like the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force so that they can effectively do their jobs to deport alien gang members. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this important legislation passed so we are safer as a community, Commonwealth, and nation.”

Congressman King: “On Long Island, gangs like MS-13 must be crushed. We cannot tolerate innocent people in our communities being slaughtered, butchered and intimidated by these criminals. This important legislation will assist law enforcement in keeping our communities safe from their reach and influence.”

Congressman Labrador: “The most important function of the federal government is to keep our communities safe and secure. Those who illegally enter our country and participate in criminal gangs need to be arrested and deported immediately. They should not be allowed to stay in our country to victimize innocent Americans. The bill we’re introducing today will make our communities safer by making it easier to deport alien gang members. We are taking an important part of the Davis-Oliver Act, which I introduced, to strengthen our security. I’m proud to join Chairman Goodlatte, Rep. Comstock, and Rep. King in introducing today’s bill and I will work hard for its passage.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. We must ensure our nation’s immigration laws are not exploited by dangerous gang members, like MS-13, seeking to bring crime and illicit activity to our communities. The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act makes it clear that criminal alien gang members are not eligible to come to the United States and ensures that they are kept off our streets. I thank Representatives Comstock, King, and Labrador for introducing this targeted, common sense bill to protect our communities and look forward to its consideration on the House floor next week.”

Kuster Statement on Alleged Racial Attack in Claremont

Source: House Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH, 2nd)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement on the ongoing investigation into an alleged racially motivated attack in Claremont, NH:

"Like many others, I've been outraged and sickened by the chilling images on social media and in the news of a young boy whose neck has been gouged by a rope. No parent can look at this photo without feeling a pit in their stomach. The reports that this was potentially a race-based act of violence underscores the need to gain a full understanding of what happened. I'm encouraged that Governor Sununu is offering the resources of the Attorney General's office to the Claremont Police Department to assist in the investigation of this matter. We must be vigilant in always combating hate and intolerance wherever it appears. New Hampshire communities must be safe and healthy environments for all our citizens."

Read more about this by clicking HERE

House Accepts Bipartisan Amendment To Increase Women In Apprenticeships

Source: House Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL, 8th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) announced that the House has passed their bipartisan amendment to increase the number of women in apprenticeships and improve skills training.

The lawmakers, all members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, are longtime supporters of increasing opportunities for women as a step to help close the skills gap. The amendment increases funding for Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grants.

“In my home state of Oregon, I have seen how apprenticeships can help women enter the building trades and lead to success in the field,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “Our bipartisan amendment will increase funding for the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grants, which will help more employers and organizations train, place, and retain women in apprenticeships and good-paying jobs. Because of this funding, tradeswomen in Oregon will have additional support and assistance getting the skills they need to advance their careers.”

“Apprenticeships are valuable programs that provide career opportunities in high paying technical fields, and this added funding will help more women find careers in advanced manufacturing, transportation or construction,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “By delivering this funding to programs in our district and across the country, we can help support women entering these crucial fields and support important apprenticeship programs that train our workers. I thank Congresswoman Bonamici for her leadership on this issue.”

“Apprenticeships play a vital role in our economy through strengthening the middle class and it’s essential that we expand these opportunities to more women,” said Congressman Krishnamoorthi. “By increasing funding for Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grants, we can help more women develop the in-demand skills they need for good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

King Introduces Bill to Return Land Wrongly Taken From Winnebago Tribe

Source: House Representative Steve King (R-IA, 4th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Steve King has introduced H.R. 3688, the “Winnebago Land Transfer Act of 2017”. King’s legislation seeks to restore several tracts of land located in Woodbury and Monona Counties to the Winnebago Tribe. In 1976, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the United States lacked authority to take the land through the eminent domain process because Congress had not taken the necessary actions to abrogate the Treaty of March 8, 1865. The treaty set apart the land at issue “for occupation and future home of the Winnebago Indians, forever.” Despite this court ruling, the land currently remains in the possession of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers due to the federal government’s improper use of the eminent domain power.

“My legislation corrects a historical wrong that dates back to the 1970’s,” said King. “At that time, the federal government improperly used the eminent domain process to take land from the Winnebago Tribe even though their rights to that land are protected by treaty. H.R. 3368 requires that this land be held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Winnebago Tribe subject to the same terms and conditions that were agreed to in the Treaty of March 8, 1865. After over 40 years, it is time the federal government returned this property to the people with the lawful claim.”

Congressman King’s legislation is cosponsored by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). The Woodbury and Monona County Boards of Supervisors support King’s legislation, as does the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Congress Nixes Summer Food Program

Source: House Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL, 7th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Last week, Congresswoman Robin Kelly offered an amendment to the so-called “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act” to reprogram $3 million for summer food assistance to families receiving SNAP benefits.

“Far too often, kids go hungry in the summer because they aren’t in school and being fed,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “For families struggling to make ends meet, affording three meals a day, even with SNAP benefits, for their children is simply impossible. My amendment would provide more breathing room for families working hard to keep food on the table.”

During the 2013-14 school year, more than 770,000 Illinois kids were fed through the free and reduced lunch program at schools.

The Kelly Amendment was rejected by the House Rules Committee, which determines which bills and amendments will receive votes in Congress. The committee did allow a vote on the Hartzler Amendment, a proposal to eliminate the reduced lunch program.

“It’s deeply troubling that this Congress will allow us to vote to take food away from millions of hungry kids but won’t let us vote to feed them,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “No American child should go hungry. I’m sorry that so many of my colleagues disagree with this basic statement of humanity.”

In Illinois, one in four school districts have student bodies that are 100 percent eligible for free and reduced lunch. Congresswoman Kelly pledged to continue working with local and community organizations to ensure young people do not go hungry just because they are not in school during the summers.

Traditionally, Appropriations bills are considered under a process referred to as an ‘open rule,’ which allows any Member of Congress to offer amendments to the spending bill. However, in recent years, Republican leadership has used a process referred to as a ‘closed rule’ to limit or strike amendments through the hyper-partisan Rules Committee.

Katko, Cummings Lead Bipartisan Bill to Fund Overtime Pay for Secret Service

Source: House Representative John Katko (R-NY, 24th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. John Katko, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation and Protective Security Subcommittee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, were joined by Reps. Trey Gowdy, Michael McCaul, Bennie Thompson, and Bonnie Watson-Coleman, in introducing H.R. 3731, the Secret Service Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017, in a bipartisan effort to ensure that the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service are paid for the overtime they work in 2017 and 2018.

“The men and women of the Secret Service deserve to be paid for the hours they work, period,” said Chairman Katko and Ranking Member Cummings. “They put their lives on the line every day and make tremendous personal sacrifices for our country. We cannot expect the Secret Service to recruit and retain the best of the best if they are not being compensated for the additional work that is demanded of them.”

The Secret Service reports more than 1,000 agents—a third of the agent workforce—have already “maxed out” their annual overtime and salary under the pay cap set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 5547, which prohibits agents from being paid for overtime after reaching the maximum annual salary for the pay rate of GS-15.

This bipartisan legislation would allow the Secret Service to cover additional overtime earned this year and the next up to level II of the Executive Schedule and require the Secret Service to submit a report to Congress on recruitment and retention efforts.

Last year, similar legislation funded overtime pay for 1,400 Secret Service employees in the 2016 presidential campaign year.

On Wednesday, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a business meeting to consider the legislation.

Click here to see a copy of the bill.


Source: House Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH, 9th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) has sent a letter urging the Trump administration to release promised funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program. The letter was led by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and cosigned by 31 House Democrats.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” the Members wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

The letter, addressed to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, notes that on Friday, September 1st, HHS unexpectedly froze committed funding for the Navigator grant period that was scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 2nd. As of Monday, September 11th, grantees had received no update on when they should expect to receive this essential funding. The letter urges that funds be released immediately with a retroactive date of September 2nd.

Members noted Navigators’ significance in keeping the Marketplaces stable, writing: “Helping Americans sign up for Marketplace coverage has many benefits, including strengthening the risk pool of the individual health insurance market. Conversely, discouraging enrollment could weaken the market and drive up premiums.”


Source: House Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC, 3rd)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) applauded President Donald J. Trump for his initiative to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and bring jobs back to America. As the Trump administration negotiates with Mexico and Canada this month, Congressman Jones is urging them to demand an end to the unfair special access to U.S. highways given to Mexican long-haul trucks in the original NAFTA agreement negotiated by President Bill Clinton.

“Ross Perot was right,” said Congressman Jones. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ we’ve heard has been the jobs of thousands of hard-working Americans going south to Mexico. It is unacceptable, and it is refreshing to have a president stand up for American workers instead of selling them out.”

In a letter sent today to America’s chief NAFTA negotiator, United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, Jones continued: “This administration has an incredible opportunity to right so many wrongs embedded in NAFTA. I know you are working hard to address those problems, and I would like to draw your attention to one in particular.”

“At the end of the original NAFTA negotiations, President Clinton and his team caved in to a demand from Mexico to allow Mexican long-haul trucks and Mexican drivers to cross the border and freely operate on American highways. That was a slap in the face. It permitted Mexican carriers, whose safety has never been certified as meeting U.S. standards, to take work away from law-abiding American truckers and to put the safety of American motorists on our highways at risk.”

“As you fight to level the playing field with Mexico, a good place start would be to close American highways to the Mexican truck fleet. American truck drivers do not want reciprocal access to Mexican highways, so no special treatment should be given in the other direction.”

President Trump started the process of renegotiating NAFTA by sending Congress a statutorily required 90-day notification on May 18, 2017. Negotiations began on August 16, 2017. The second round of talks concluded in Mexico earlier this month. The third round is expected to begin on September 23 in Ottawa, Canada.

Treasury Department Reports $20 Trillion National Debt

Source: House Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX, 5th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) released the following statement in response to the recent Daily Treasury Statement from the United States Treasury reporting that our national debt is set to surpass $20 trillion ($61,899 per citizen):

“As I said last week, when it comes to our national debt the familiar refrain from too many in Washington continues to be, ‘we will deal with that tomorrow.’ I’ve been hearing that for years and now the American people are waking up to find out we now have $20 trillion worth of debt today, and tomorrow never seems to come.

“There is a true spending-driven debt crisis in America. It is the greatest existential threat to our country that receives almost no attention in Washington.

“Not only will the national debt break federal and household budgets, but it is a direct threat to our national security. In a time where the world is more dangerous than ever, we cannot afford to short-change the safety and well-being of our citizens.

“When the debt was $17 trillion, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said, ‘the most significant threat to our national security is our debt.’ Now that number is significantly higher with no sign of stopping.

“$20 trillion in national debt is a dubious and dangerous milestone that was all too avoidable. If we do not, we will soon wake up to find ourselves a second-rate economic power, a second-rate military power, and a second-rate moral authority.”

Guthrie Releases Bipartisan Draft Legislation to Reform Over-the-Counter Approval System

Source: House Representative Brett S. Guthrie (R-KY, 2nd)

Bogs Footwear (Weyco)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY-02) and a group of bipartisan Members of Congress have released a discussion draft to reform the over-the-counter (OTC) monograph system. The bill was introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) along with Energy and Commerce Committee members Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

The draft would modernize the “monograph” framework that allows the FDA to make scientific determinations for OTC ingredients through an administrative order processwith user fees, an approach closer to new drug application procedures. These updates will allow new, safe products to come to market more quickly, rapidly address safety issues, and expand consumer choice.

“As our medical and pharmaceutical technology rapidly advances, we must ensure that the FDA keeps up with innovations in over-the-counter drugs,” said Guthrie.“I was proud to join Rep. Latta and other members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will give the FDA more flexibility to help get new medicines to Americans faster.”

“The outdated OTC monograph system stifles innovation and harms consumer confidence,” said Latta.“Moving to a more flexible system that uses new information and scientific advancements ultimately means more certainty for manufacturers and better products for consumers. Working in a bipartisan manner, we’ve released this draft legislation that adds predictability to the monograph process and would create a more robust over-the-counter marketplace.”

“This bipartisan initiative is a victory for patients and consumers,” said Burgess. “The current over-the-counter monograph system is outdated and deters updates and innovations to over-the-counter medications. This bill will allow for meaningful modifications to the monograph that will equip manufacturers to continue to deliver high-quality products to consumers. We must continue to strive to do more to reform approval processes at the FDA and subsequently increase access to care.”

“Americans utilize over-the-counter products dozens of time every day” said Green. “The FDA’s regulatory framework for oversight of most over-the-counter products has not been updated for decades and is widely regarded as flawed. The current system is unable to keep pace with scientific discovery or respond quickly to safety concerns. We have been working in a bipartisan manner with the FDA and stakeholders to create a more flexible, modern process and give the FDA the resources is needs to respond to new drugs and keep patients safe. This draft is the next step in that process, and we will continue to work across the aisle to advance this important issue.“

“Virtually every American uses over-the-counter medications to treat headaches, colds, and other common ailments,” said DeGette. “The market for these products has grown substantially and the science has advanced, but the system for reviewing them remains outdated. It’s virtually impossible for the FDA to respond to safety risks promptly, which needlessly puts consumers in harm’s way. Our bipartisan bill will give the FDA new tools to protect consumers, provide badly-needed resources, and streamline the FDA review process.”

The OTC monograph system was established in 1972 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the safety and efficacy of the OTC medicine ingredients then on the market, including doses, formulations, and labeling. Any OTC that conforms to a monograph may be manufactured and sold without an individual product approval. In the 45 years since the system was created, the process has not been completed and movement on unfinished items has been slow. The system has become a hindrance that does not allow for advances in science and new information concerning the safety of an ingredient.

The draft legislation updates the monograph process by specifically adding a new section to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to:

· Move away from the cumbersome current monograph finalization process to an administrative order procedure. Additional processes will be in place to ensure recourse should issues arise.

· Create new pathways to innovation for monograph products benefitting consumers, where none currently exits.

· Provide standards for determining general recognition of safety and effectiveness for monograph drugs.

· Ensure the new drug approval pathway and other nonprescription drugs otherwise lawfully marketed are not affected.

· Include by reference existing OTC Review Final Monographs and deem final Tentative Final Monographs by statute.

Grijalva: Under Trump Administration Immigrants Are Dispensable

Source: House Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ, 3rd)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Grijalva released the following statement after concerning reports that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) had planned massive nation-wide raids later this month. According to reports, “Operation Mega,” targeted between 6000 and 10000 individuals. As of Thursday night, the agency issued a statement saying it had canceled nationwide enforcement actions due to Hurricane Irma and the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“Under a Trump administration our families live in constant fear of being collateral damage to an extremist immigration agenda” Rep. Grijalva said. “If these reports coming from officials close to ICE are accurate - they only shed light to the disgusting and deplorable tactics this administration has used from day one to divide families and tear apart our immigrant communities. Amidst two of the worst natural disasters to hit our nation, this administration had the audacity to consider spending its resources going after vulnerable populations. Just days ago, Trump shattered the dreams of 800,000 young individuals who pledge allegiance to no other nation than our own. Yesterday, via a tweet he reassured DREAMers that they had nothing to worry about, yet he continues to scapegoat the immigrant community. While “Operation Mega” has been postponed, it is only a matter of time before his plan to detain thousands of individuals is executed. This is not about law and order, this is solely a sick scheme that does not nothing but create more fear and insecurity in our nation.

“This administration has shown no respect for the basic principles and rights that are afforded under the Constitution to all individuals regardless of immigration status and that gravely concerns me. I call upon all my colleagues and fellow Americans who believe in the basic principles of justice and human decency to stand in solidarity with our immigrant community as they face this onslaught attack by the Trump administration whose fear tactics have no end in sight. It has become abundantly clear that Trump plans to use his executive authority for the worst, which makes protecting DREAMers and passing comprehensive immigration reform even more urgent.”

Goodlatte Statement on Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

Source: House Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA, 6th)


Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently signed on as a cosponsor of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, introduced by Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC). This bipartisan legislation falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Law-abiding citizens should not forfeit their Second Amendment rights simply by traveling to another state. The premise of H.R. 38 is simple – if you are eligible to carry a concealed firearm in your state of residence, you should be able to carry a concealed firearm in another state that allows individuals to do so. This bill does not impede upon or change the authority of state and local governments to decide where citizens may or may not carry firearms. Protecting our constitutional rights is the greatest responsibility of any Member of Congress, and this includes protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to legally carry firearms to ensure safety for themselves or their family. I look forward to working toward the passage of H.R. 38 in the House," said Congressman Goodlatte.

H.R. 38 amends the federal criminal code to allow a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms. A qualified individual must: (1) be eligible to possess, transport, or receive a firearm under federal law; (2) carry a valid photo identification document; and (3) carry a valid concealed carry permit issued by, or be eligible to carry a concealed firearm in, his or her state of residence.

Homeland Security Bill Passes House Unanimously

Source: House Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI, 8th)


Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Will Hurd that empowers the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve intelligence information sharing capabilities among its many component agencies. The DHS Data Framework Act codifies an effort at DHS to develop a data framework to incorporate all DHS component agency data related to homeland security, terrorist information, weapons of mass destruction, and national intelligence, into one system, thereby alleviating the current costly, cumbersome process of searching and vetting information against multiple databases with different log-ins, passwords, and legal restrictions.

After the bill passed, House Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI, 8th) said, “I was proud to spearhead bipartisan legislation that gives our intelligence analysts the skills they need to keep citizens in Northeast Wisconsin and across the country safe.” Gallagher continued, “We live in increasingly dangerous and uncertain times, and this bill is a significant step in making sure our analysts have the robust skillsets necessary to combatting the threat of terrorism and cyber-attacks, securing our borders and infrastructure, and strengthening our defenses.”

Rep. Gallagher is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, where he sits on the Counterterrorism and Intelligence, as well as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittees. Earlier this year, Rep. Gallagher was named Chairman of the Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States by the Committee’s chairman, Rep. McCaul.

“Sixteen years after the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists on Homeland, most Americans would be dismayed that information-sharing stovepipes still exist,” said House Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX, 23rd), who served as an undercover officer in the CIA for almost a decade. “The DHS Data Framework Act will allow DHS personnel to both share and vet information in a more efficient manner without undermining the security of sensitive information. DHS officials need to be able to quickly and safely share information in today’s fast-paced environment, and this bill provides the framework for that to happen without compromising our nation’s secrets.”

The data framework created in the bill also will be replicated on a classified network to allow for more efficient classified analysis and vetting of law enforcement data against intelligence information.

Click here to read more about the bill.

Google Appears to Be Manipulating Its Search Engine Results to Defend Internet Law that Enables Sex Trafficking, Consumer Watchdog Finds

Source: Consumer Watchdog

Birthday in a Box

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Internet giant Google appears to be manipulating its search engine results to favor opposition to bipartisan efforts seeking to amend a key Internet law so websites like Backpage that facilitate online sex trafficking can be held accountable, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Three of the top four links returned under the news tab for the search term "Section 230" were to articles from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch opponent of amending the Internet law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Consumer Watchdog found.

Searches for news results for "Section 230" on competing search engines Bing and DuckDuckGo gave links to articles presenting all sides of the issue. View screenshots of the results from the three search engines by clicking HERE.

"Google is supposed to be an unbiased gatekeeper to information," said John M. Simpson Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project Director. "Instead they appear to be stacking the deck to favor their own purposes. You can forget their motto; this is evil."

Google is leading Tech industry efforts to block any amendment to Section 230, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties on their sites. The companies and other defenders of Section 230 claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet, but a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report shows that sites like Backpage aid and abet under-age sex traffickers using the blanket protection of the Act. By one count 73% of child trafficking reports in the United States involve Backpage.com.

The bipartisan Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Its 27 cosponsors include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The House bill, Rep. Ann Wagner's H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, has 111 co-sponsors. Both would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

"We already know that Google manipulates its search results to favor its own services," said Simpson, noting the Internet giant faces a $2.7 billion fine from European antitrust authorities for that monopolistic practice. "I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that they use their clout to surreptitiously influence a public policy debate."

Unified Tech opposition to narrowly amending Section 230 is changing, Consumer Watchdog noted. Last week Tech giant Oracle and CoStar Group, which operates Apartments.com, both endorsed S. 1639 and H.R. 1865.

In letters supporting the measures Kenneth Glueck, Oracle Senior Vice President wrote:

"As your and other investigations have demonstrated, sex trafficking has exploded in large part due to nefarious Internet actors that knowingly facilitate and profit from it. We agree that congressional action is necessary to put an end to this tragic exploitation of human beings and hold its online accomplices to account."

In his letter Andy Florence, CoStar CEO, wrote:

"As a Technology company, we believe in, and have benefited from, the growth of the Internet. We understand that an unregulated Internet provides fertile ground for the development of important new and innovative business models, and we will continue to strongly defend that openness. But when we see those driven by greed take advantage of that freedom by facilitating sex trafficking, we cannot be silent.

"The absolute immunity under section 230 of the CDA can no longer be justified at the expense of the exploitation of children."

Backpage's abuses and the fight by its victims to hold it accountable are the subject of the documentary film, I am Jane Doe, which is now available on Netflix or can be downloaded from Google Play, iTunes or Amazon.

Religious Liberty is the Cornerstone of All Other Human Freedoms

Source: House Representative Trent Franks (R-AR, 8th)

Betsey Johnson

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In response to a report by the National Review that Senate Democrats were counting judicial nominees’ orthodox Christian faith against them during confirmation hearings, Congressman Trent Franks released the following statement:

“Article VI of our Constitution makes it crystal clear that ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’

“It is breathtaking that Senate Democrats are counting individuals’ orthodox Christian faiths as a demerit when evaluating them for official posts. By interrogating Amy Coney Bennett about her Catholic faith, they are arrogantly abrogating their oath of office to the United States Constitution.”

“Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.’ Jefferson knew that religious liberty is the cornerstone of all other human freedoms, thus religious liberty became the first freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

“America’s religious diversity and religious freedom have motivated charitable groups from all denominations to selflessly served their fellow human beings -- establishing hospitals, operating homeless shelters, providing counseling services and running agencies for adoption and foster care. More than that, religious institutions provide essential meaning and happiness to their members along with the attending stability that blesses our entire society.

“If America loses her unequivocal commitment to religious freedom, we will face a dark future.”

Introduction of Farm to School Act

Source: House Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE, 1st)
Source: House Representative Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH, 11th)

Bedford Fair

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), together with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), introduced the Farm to School Act of 2017 to enhance the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant program. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced identical legislation in the U.S. Senate.

“Linking America’s farms to schools to provide local nutritious options for children is an exciting policy goal,” said Fortenberry. “The Farm to School program adds fresh, healthy meal choices for students and teachers, brings ag education to the classroom for the next generation of farmers and ranchers, and prioritizes food to tribal schools from tribal agricultural producers. Building upon previous efforts to connect local farmers and students, it expands market opportunities for our beginning farmers and veteran agricultural producers.”

The bill covers a range of dynamic new options for schools and expands participation of the program to include preschools, after-school programs, and summer food service sites.

Cohen’s Statement on Recent Natural Disasters in the United States

Source: House Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN, 9th)

Beddinginn September Sale

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) released the following statement on the recent natural disasters in the United States, including Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey and wildfires in the West:

“My thoughts go out to the people affected by Hurricane Irma in Florida and across the Southeast, as they did for the people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and the people affected by massive wildfires in the West. These victims have experienced suffering, loss of property and, in some cases, loss of life. In addition to the irreplaceable human lives lost, each of these natural disasters have and will cost American taxpayers billions of dollars in cleanup, search-and-rescue and reconstruction costs. They have had an extraordinary economic and environmental impact, which I believe has been exacerbated by climate change and will only get worse in time. We should come together as a country to aid victims of natural disasters, just as the country came to the aid of Memphians during past flooding and tornado events.

We need stronger infrastructure and better laws to protect against flooding and prohibit building housing in flood plains. Now is not the time to cut funding for climate change research. Now is not the time to consider cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. We should be reforming our tax structure to ensure middle- and lower-income Americans have more disposable income to stimulate the economy and the federal government has sufficient funds to respond to natural disasters and international crises without taking funding from health care and other essential life preserving programs.”

U.N. Security Council Adopts of New Sanctions against North Korea

Source: United Nations Security Council
Source: House Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX, 20th)

Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The UN Security Council has adopted new sanctions against North Korea. The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption of a new Security Council resolution in response to the sixth nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Maintaining unity in the Security Council is crucial in tackling security challenges on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

This firm action by the Security Council sends a clear message that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must comply fully with its international obligations. The Secretary-General urges the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abide by the decisions of the Council and allow space for the resumption of dialogue, and calls upon all Member States to ensure the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Secretary-General has taken note of the Security Council’s desire for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation, as well as its urging of further work to reduce tensions. He reaffirms his commitment to working with all parties to this end and to strengthening communication channels.

Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, issued the following statement after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2375 to strengthen sanctions against North Korea:

“The adoption of these strengthened sanctions shows that there are still diplomatic avenues to pursue as the United States works with the global community to address North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. We must capitalize on this moment of unanimous agreement and leverage these more comprehensive sanctions to pressure North Korea into ceasing its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs. This progress would allow us to forge a path towards negotiations with the Kim regime.”

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Bill Introduced to Expand Orthotic and Prosthetic Care for Veterans: The Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act

Source: Matthew Cartwright (D-PA, 17th)

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Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright introduced bipartisan legislation that would improve orthotics and prosthetics care for service members and veterans. The Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act would support colleges and universities seeking to establish degree programs to train specialists in orthotics and prosthetics.

“There is an urgent need for orthotics and prosthetics practitioners to care for our service members who have undergone amputations as a result of combat-related injuries,” said Rep. Cartwright. “We are challenged to support the grueling recovery for far too many veterans, and we have a moral obligation to provide our heroes with the best health care available. This bill makes strides toward this goal by expanding orthotic and prosthetic training opportunities to ensure veterans have access to quality care.”

In the past decade, the skill set to provide this state-of-the-art care has become increasingly complex. Unfortunately, there are only around 7,100 prosthetists and orthotists nationwide, with one in five either past retirement already or eligible to retire in the next five years. Current degree programs are not widespread enough to meet this demand for new practitioners and should these degree-granting programs continue at their current rate, they will only be able to replace around two-thirds of the clinicians who retire in the next 20 years.

The Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act authorizes a competitive grant program to help colleges and universities develop master’s degree programs focusing on orthotics and prosthetics. Each institution receiving one of these grants will require students to rotate through facilities run by the Departments of Veterans Affairs or Defense, or that hold VA contracts. This bill also requires the VA to establish a Center of Excellence in Prosthetic and Orthotic Education to provide evidence-based research on the knowledge, skills, and training that clinical professionals need to care for veterans.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Bill Introduced to Protect Jobs for Americans and Legal Workers

Source: Ken Calvert (R-CA, 42nd)

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Washington, D.C. - September 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42), Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 3711) to preserve jobs for citizens and legal workers by requiring U.S. employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the E-Verify system.

“Mandatory E-Verify is long overdue,” said Rep. Calvert. “The program is ready to go mandatory and the Legal Workforce Act will deliver on the promise to ensure that American jobs go to American workers and those authorized to work in the U.S. Chairman Smith and Chairman Goodlatte continue to demonstrate tremendous leadership in advancing the use of E-Verify and protecting American workers.”

In 1996, Rep. Calvert authored the legislative language that created the E-Verify program, the only tool available for employers to voluntarily check the legal work status of newly hired employees. Since then, Rep. Calvert has worked steadily over the years to expand E-Verify and pushed to make it mandatory.

E-Verify is operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to help ensure that they are genuinely eligible to work in the U.S. The program quickly confirms 99.8% of work-eligible employees and takes less than two minutes to use. Nearly 740,000 American employers currently use E-Verify. A summary of key components of the Legal Workforce Act can be found here here.