Friday, September 22, 2017
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) told the Senate Finance Committee today that no small business should pay a higher tax rate than large corporations and that every small business should pay less to the IRS under tax reform.
“Tax reform starts with small business,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “Small businesses should not pay a higher tax rate than large corporations, which would put them at a competitive disadvantage. No small business should pay a higher tax rate than they do currently, and tax reform should result in a tax code that makes it easier for small businesses to comply.”
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing this morning on business tax reform. Duggan’s testimony underscored the point that tax reform is the number-one priority for American small businesses.
“According to NFIB research, five of the top 10 concerns for small businesses relate to federal taxes,” she said. “Tax reform has the potential to unlock years of stagnant growth and income for small business. Given that small businesses account for nearly half of the gross domestic product (GDP) and private-sector workforce, and create two out of every three net new jobs, the U.S. economy will not reach its full potential for growth without a robust and flourishing small business sector.
“If the purpose of tax reform is to jumpstart the economy and create jobs, then tax reform must start with small business,” she continued.
NFIB has long sought tax reform for small business and has been calling on policymakers to make small businesses the center of tax reform.
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- A letter on behalf of 24 Israeli mayors representing 450,000 residents of Judea and Samaria was sent to U.S. Senator Tom Cotton to encourage U.S. Senators to pass the Taylor Force Act. This bill, which will defund the Palestinian Authority (PA) until its ceases payments and benefits that reward terrorists and their families for terroristic acts against Israel and the United States. Having passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the bill now awaits a vote by the full Senate.
The letter from the Israeli mayors states: “If we truly want to give peace and coexistence a chance to blossom, then removing the poisonous message the underlies the need for the Taylor Force Act is a critical first step. The PA should receive the very clear message that the U.S. government will no longer look the other way when terrorists are publicly glorified. By exposing these blatant efforts to influence the next generation of Palestinians away from genuine peace efforts, your amendment actually gives peace a chance to take root.”
The Taylor Force Act will force the PA to face the consequences of its violence if it does not end this abhorrent practice of funding terrorism. The PA currently gives over $300 million annually to terrorists and their families. However, since the U.S. provides over $700 million of direct and indirect aid to the Palestinians, American taxpayer dollars are providing the funds to reward terrorists who kill American and Israeli citizens. As soon as attackers are arrested, the PA provides canteen expenses, salary and health benefits. A government job upon release is guaranteed for those sentenced to five or more years. The families of “martyrs” also receive large payments for the loss of their family member.
If the bill is enacted, the PA would have to revoke any law, decree or document authorizing a compensation scheme for prisoners “that uses the sentence or period of incarceration to determine the level of compensation paid” in order to receive U.S. funds. The secretary of state would also have to certify that the PA “has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against American and Israeli citizens after the attackers being fairly tried and who have been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism, including the family members of the convicted individuals.” The PA would also have to take “credible steps” against incitement to violence against Israelis and Americans.
Liberty Counsel and Christians in Defense of Israel have provided information to legislators to pass this bill. This legislation is named in memory of U.S. army veteran and Vanderbilt student, Taylor Force, who served in combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be senselessly killed as a civilian by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel.
“We stand with these Israeli mayors and residents of Israel and urge the Senate to pass the Taylor Force Act that will cut the supply of blood money from U.S. taxpayers to the Palestinian Authority,” said Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel, President of Christians in Defense of Israel, and Founder and President of Covenant Journey. “As the Israeli mayors state in their letter, ‘we must remove the poisonous message that underlies the need for the Taylor Force Act’ if we have any hope for peace. We cannot reward acts of terrorism like the one that tragically took the life of Taylor Force. ‘Pay to Slay’ must end. The murder of innocent Americans and Israelis must end,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is an international litigation, education, and policy organization. Liberty Counsel has a number of affiliated ministries, including Christians in Defense of Israel and Covenant Journey, a program that provides a life-changing experience in Israel for Christian college-age students who have leadership potential. Find out more at www.LC.org and www.CovenantJourney.org.
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement on Hurricane Maria’s impact on the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:
"The residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been devastated by Hurricane Maria, a storm that took human lives and left millions without power, water and stable infrastructure. This is the most unfortunate circumstances that both of these U.S. territories could possibly face given the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma. I, along with all of our committee members, pray for all those impacted.
“I have spoken with Resident Commissioner Gonzalez on the extent of the damage, as well as plans for relief, and will be working with Delegate Plaskett on a similar plan of action. Together, we will advocate for the full support of the federal government. Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in dire need of our assistance and we will do everything in our power to ensure that all necessary resources are made available.
“As Americans, both in the mainland and throughout all of our territories, we are all in this together."
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In filings this week about the FCC’s forthcoming wireless-competition report, Free Press called out Chairman Ajit Pai for misrepresenting the state of broadband investment following the agency’s 2015 Net Neutrality ruling.
The FCC is required by statute to compile this annual report to Congress on the state of the wireless industry. The 20th annual report is the first edition to come due during Pai’s chairmanship. The report is on the docket for the FCC’s next monthly meeting, which will take place on Tues., Sept. 26. During that meeting, the commissioners will consider and then vote on adoption of the final report. Pai released the draft of this annual report earlier this month.
In a recent speech at an industry conference, Pai claimed that this draft contains evidence that wireless-industry capital investment declined from 2015 to 2016. He suggested that this decline is due to the FCC’s February 2015 Title II reclassification decision and adoption of open-internet rules.
On Tuesday, Free Press sent a letter to Pai condemning the chairman for misusing this report and “once again misleading the public” to advance his “irrational vendetta” against the Net Neutrality rules the FCC put in place during the Obama administration.
“The easily verifiable truth is that wireless-industry investments peaked in 2013, as carriers completed the bulk of 4G LTE deployments,” the Free Press letter reads. “Both that peak, and the ongoing decline from it, predate the entire proceeding that led to the 2015 reclassification of broadband as a lightly regulated Title II service. What’s more, this is by no means the only years-long downturn for the wireless sector: Such periods of slower spending are natural — and, in the recent past, have likewise occurred outside of recessions.”
The Free Press letter includes detailed analysis that proves that this fluctuating trend is part of a larger pattern of investment that has nothing to do with the rules the FCC adopted to prevent internet-access providers from blocking, throttling or otherwise discriminating against the online communications of internet users. The letter also notes that many previous agency reports on wireless competition specifically caution against misinterpretation of short-term investment data. Yet the draft of Pai’s report provides no such historical context — and no warnings about investment patterns.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“Since coming into office with the Trump administration, Pai has repeatedly lied about the state of broadband investment since the 2015 open-internet rules came into effect. He’s trying to paint a picture of decline and dysfunction to justify destroying the protections that internet users need.
“The real investment numbers tell a completely different story. Our letter to Chairman Pai restores the context about wireless investment that his draft report tries to hide, and in the process we restore information that Pai quite literally would erase from the historical record if he could get away with it.
“The FCC — and wireless carriers too — used to acknowledge basic truths about investment. Over the long haul — and since the 2015 Open Internet Order — broadband investment has been on the rise. But there are fluctuations from year to year, and from one company to another, because different carriers are on different upgrade paths.
“You don’t have to take our word for it: Our letter cites AT&T’s own comments on wireless investment, explaining that ‘there is no reason to expect capital expenditures to increase by the same amount year after year’ because carriers ‘make significant expenditures to upgrade and expand their networks in one year ... and then focus the next year on signing up customers and integrating those new facilities into their existing networks.’ In other words, according to AT&T itself, ‘Minor variations from year to year ... should not be surprising.’
“Wireless investment has been trending downwards since 2013, after most of the big carriers finished their 4G buildouts. It should start to tick back up again soon as carriers head into the next-generation 5G network buildouts in earnest. None of this has anything to do with the FCC’s decision in 2015 to treat broadband as a Title II service. It’s just the way the business works. Chairman Pai is either ignorant of that reality, or trying to fool you. We suspect it’s the latter.
“Broadband investment after Title II is doing just fine, but it’s never been true that every company or every sector spends more and more money every single year. In fact, as technology improves, carriers can sometimes spend less while getting better results for their money. Our letter describes the cyclical nature of wireless investment, and it also shows that prior FCC chairmen — Republicans and Democrats alike — issued annual reports that rightly recognized this truth. Those reports duly cautioned that simple aggregate investment totals and changes from year to year should not be over-interpreted by analysts and policymakers.
“Chairman Pai ignores this wisdom in his determination to misuse and cherry-pick data suiting his predetermined positions. He seems content to parrot the hysteria and faulty research of phone and cable lobbyists and their paid-for analysts. Unlike Pai, the real numbers don’t lie, and they paint a picture of a healthy and growing broadband sector since the rules were put in place.
“In this most recent report, Pai is up to the same old tricks. He’s deliberately obscured the facts and ignored the findings contained in prior reports, which routinely found extended periods of declining investment in years before the 2015 Open Internet Order vote. This year’s report should do the same or better — instead of pretending there’s some unusual decline and then attempting to pin it on Title II.”
Madison, WI - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Governor Scott Walker signed the state budget, which includes a full repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) recently urged members of the Assembly and Senate to move forward with a repeal of the prevailing wage.
CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following comment:
“The prevailing wage will no longer stand between Wisconsin veterans and the employment opportunities they deserve in the construction industry. The prevailing wage law padded the pockets of unions while limiting opportunity for veterans and sticking taxpayers with the costs. This law restricted competition and prevented small businesses from creating and maintaining jobs.
“It is important to acknowledge Senator Leah Vukmir and Rep. Rob Hutton who spent years working for this reform. We applaud Governor Walker for speeding up a repeal of the prevailing wage in Wisconsin through a line-item veto and thank Senators Stroebel, Kapenga and Nass for fighting to make that possible.”
Earlier this year, CVA released web ads targeted at Wisconsin legislators. The ads highlighted the positive impact that a prevailing wage repeal would have on veterans in the state. CVA also released a memo which refutes the myth, propagated by union-backed groups, that veterans support prevailing wage laws.
Prevailing wage laws, which were adopted in Wisconsin nearly 85 years ago, mandate that contractors are paid based on rates decided by unions. Instead of having the market determine how much these services are valued by the state, union bosses get to decide – and then taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Prevailing wage laws result in higher taxpayer costs and can limit the ability of many small businesses to compete for government work.
Los Angeles, CA - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Los Angeles lawyer Ken White notes that a professor is being “investigated for writing about being investigated for writing about being investigated.” This Title IX investigation has apparently been going on since last May, making it longer than some other investigations that courts have ruled unconstitutional due to their speech-chilling nature.
Previously, Northwestern University investigated Professor Laura Kipnis after she wrote an essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” which hypersensitive students claimed offended them and constituted sexual harassment in violation of Title IX, the federal statute against sex discrimination in educational institutions. After Kipnis defended herself against the harassment charges on Twitter, students then accused her of “retaliation” in violation of Title IX. After an outcry from free speech advocates, charges were shelved months later.
These charges against Kipnis over an off-campus essay were made possible by the Obama administration. It changed the Education Department’s interpretation of Title IX to require colleges to investigate even off-campus student or faculty conduct alleged to constitute sexual harassment or assault. The Obama administration’s position was at odds with federal court rulings saying that Title IX does not apply off campus, such as Roe v. St. Louis University (2014).
One of Kipnis’s accusers then filed a defamation suit against Kipnis for her book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which cast aspersions on a student’s sexual harassment claims against a former professor.
In May 2016, several Northwestern students—including the one who is suing Kipnis—then filed a Title IX complaint against the professor over her book. The University then launched an investigation, which has yet to reach a conclusion.
A lengthy investigation of a person’s speech can violate the First Amendment through its chilling effect, even if the person is never found guilty. For example, a federal appeals court found that an eight month-long civil rights investigation of citizens for their speech opposing a minority housing project protected by the Fair Housing Act was a clear violation of First Amendment rights, in White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214 (9th Cir. 2000).
However, Northwestern University is a private university, and thus is not bound by the First Amendment. So Kipnis would have to show that federal pressure or policies caused the investigation of her before she could sue under the First Amendment.
These endless complaints against Kipnis are facilitated by other actions taken by the Obama administration, which left the misimpression that even unreasonable and false allegations of harassment and retaliation are protected by Title IX. According to the courts, sexual harassment allegations made to campus officials are not protected against retaliation if they are either (a) factually false, or (b) based on an unreasonable misinterpretation of what constitutes sexual harassment. [See Vasconcelos v. Meese, 907 F.2d 11 (9th Cir. 1990) (false allegations not protected); Clark County School District v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268 (2001) (unreasonable allegation not protected, such as complaint about fleeting exposure to sexual material that no reasonable person could have viewed as “severe” or “pervasive”)].
But in its publicly available letters of findings in Title IX investigations, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights fails to acknowledge that false allegations are not protected, and in 2016, one OCR staff attorney took the position that “reasonableness” should not be used in assessing harassment allegations. In 2015, an OCR regional office found that a student who made false allegations was entitled to Title IX “remedies” against a college. In its investigation of Michigan State University, it required college officials to offer “remedies” such as academic adjustments to “Student A,” whom both it and the University found had made a false allegation of sexual assault against two students. The Education Department’s strange logic was that the university did not begin proceedings against the accused students fast enough—even though it immediately kicked them out of their dorm and ordered them to stay away from the accuser. Such “interim remedies” against accused students who are never found guilty raise serious due-process issues. [See, e.g., Tyree v. Evans, 728 A.2d 101 (D.C. 1999) (due process required opportunity to cross-examine accuser before imposition of one-year no-contact order); Alberti v. Cruise, 383 F.2d 268 (4th Cir. 1967) (overly broad no-contact order violated First Amendment)].
Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk Gerson provides disturbing details about the ongoing investigation of Kipnis at The New Yorker:
Kipnis… was surprised when Northwestern once again launched a formal Title IX investigation of her writing. … [I]nvestigators presented her with a spreadsheet laying out dozens of quotations from her book, along with at least eighty written questions, such as “What do you mean by this statement?,” “What is the source/are the sources for this information?,” and “How do you respond to the allegation that this detail is not necessary to your argument and that its inclusion is evidence of retaliatory intent on your part?” Kipnis chose not to answer any questions, following the standard advice of counsel defending the court case.
She did submit a statement saying that “these complaints seem like an attempt to bend the campus judicial system to punish someone whose work involves questioning the campus judicial system, just as bringing Title IX complaints over my first Chronicle essay attempted to do two years ago.” In other words, the process was the punishment. Possible evidence of retaliatory purpose, she learned, included statements in the book that aggressively staked out her refusal to keep quiet. …Her prior Title IX investigation, she writes, “has made me a little mad and possibly a little dangerous. ... I mean, having been hauled up on complaints once, what do I have to lose? ‘Confidentiality’? ‘Conduct befitting a professor’? Kiss my ass. In other words, thank you to my accusers: unwitting collaborators, accidental muses.” Also presented as possible evidence was her Facebook post quoting a book review—“Kipnis doesn’t seem like the sort of enemy you’d want to attract, let alone help create”—on which Kipnis had commented, “I love that.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says that in addition to trampling on academic freedom, the investigation of Kipnis also seems to contradict the logic of a Bush-era 2003 Education Department guidance document that was never withdrawn by the Obama administration.
As Reason’s Robby Soave notes:
It should be obvious that the text of Title IX does not empower university officials to investigate tenured professors for criticizing Title IX, nor was the law intended to weaponize students' grievances. Kipnis’s ongoing ordeal is a testament to the pressing need for the Education Department to rein in the Obama-era guidance that spawned this madness, and a reminder that Secretary Betsy DeVos is wholly justified in doing just that.
I earlier explained why Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was correct to criticize Obama-era Title IX interpretations at this link, since those interpretations undermine free speech and student and faculty rights on campus.
Fairborn, OH - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- University administrators at Wright State University have a problem.
A student group put up images and a display in the Quad that was so offensive, vile, and dangerous in the minds of these administrators that they had to send a warning out to all students.
“Members of our community who are uncomfortable with viewing these images may want to avoid the Quad area during this time. Furthermore, if you need support or wish to talk with someone, you are encouraged to visit our Counseling and Wellness Center” wrote Dr. Gary Dickstein, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs. “The staff in the Women’s Center will also be available.”
Anyone who spends time on a college campus today knows that offensive and graphic displays aren’t necessarily unusual. But a campus-wide warning like is something I’ve never seen before.
So what was happening that is so offensive and traumatizing that it called for such a dire warning?
Pro-life students were handing out literature on abortion.
As Dr. Dickstein wrote “Wright State University has received notification that a group of approximately 10 individuals from the organization Create Equality will erect an anti-abortion display and hand out literature on the Dayton Campus on Wednesday, September 20. The display is scheduled to be on the Quad from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They have informed the university that they plan to bring large 4X3 placards that contain very graphic images.” (emphasis from Dickstein)
Apparently to Dr. Dickstein, at a school of more than 12,000 students, 10 students wanting to discuss the realities of abortion requires the student body be put on notice.
This is one of the most embarrassing messages I’ve ever seen from a university. Only an institution that is steeped in liberal ideology would think that a pro-life display would cause such serious trauma to the student body.
Thankfully we have leaders in Ohio calling out this absurd move by the University, like Rep. Niraj Antani who called out Dr. Dickstein in the Dayton Daily News.
It’s wrong for a university to send a message like this out to students, singling out pro-life speech. It’s insidious and coercive. Do they send out similar messages when pro-abortion students walk around with uterus hats on their heads? Do they send out messages like this during Pride parades that often have people walking around naked? I highly doubt it.
Yet students merely trying to show the realities of abortion warrant putting the campus on alert.
Ohio students deserve better.
Scottsdale, AZ - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- PureFlix.com, the leader in faith and family streaming video, is joining forces with the nation's top trade publication for homeschooling to help families who are looking to enhance their curriculum and research options.
Starting this month, every free, one-month trial to PureFlix.com will also include access to SchoolhouseTeachers.com (a division of The Old Schoolhouse), which offers more than 300 course choices for preschool through high school.
Additionally, users will be able to explore World Book Online, a renowned encyclopedia series, to assist with any research projects, reports, etc. The World Book content is offered in 10 sections (or "libraries") which are separated by grades and subjects.
Both resources will be available at no cost to users for three months.
"The combination of our 6,500 video titles and the resources available via SchoolhouseTeachers.com makes this a valuable, winning proposition for homeschoolers," said Greg Gudorf, CEO of Pure Flix.com. "We're excited to be working with experts in the homeschool space and providing families the educational resources and support they need."
Both companies are grounded in the same Biblical worldview and the desire to inspire homeschool families through creative content and curriculums.
"We're so excited to be working with PureFlix.com because we both want to inspire homeschool families," said Gena Suarez, publisher of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. "This alliance between the two companies will open so many doors for families looking to enhance how their children learn, no matter their ages."
PureFlix.com continues to recognize the importance of homeschool families. Earlier this year, the company offered a curriculum guide to parents to help navigate the available streaming videos, which assist in such areas as science, history, geography, Biblical studies, and more.
PureFlix.com is a subsidiary of Pure Flix Entertainment, LLC, the worldwide leader in faith and family-based entertainment and a Christian movie studio based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that produces, distributes, and acquires faith-based movies. Whether it’s on your television, laptop, phone, or tablet, PureFlix.com is your trusted destination for the highest-quality, wholesome entertainment that’s now available anytime, anywhere.
Franklin, KY - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The sparsely attended hearing conducted in the Franklin Circuit Court on September 20 belied the importance of the issue before the court.
Judge Thomas Wingate clearly understood the importance of the issue.
What was that issue?
Whether a public university can ignore the express language of a statute that authorizes the Kentucky Attorney General to obtain and examine — but maintain the confidentiality of — records relating to allegations of sexual harassment leveled against university employees in order to determine the propriety of the university’s denial of a request for those records?
Under Kentucky’s Open Records Law, the Attorney General is required to review public agency denials of requests for agency records and issue decisions stating whether the agency violated the law in denying the requests. Those decisions — referred to as open records decisions or ORDs — “have the force and effect of law” if not appealed to the appropriate circuit court within 30 days of issuance.
The single most important tool available to the Attorney General in discharging this statutory duty — the tool that enables him to independently verify that an agency’s denial is supported by law — is under assault by three public universities: the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, and Kentucky State University.
Each university received an open records request from the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper, The Kernel, each located records confirming incidents of sexual harassment of students by university employees, and each denied The Kernel access to the records based on a federal law prohibiting disclosure of student “education records.”
When The Kernel appealed those denials to the Attorney General under the statute described above, each university refused to honor the Attorney General’s statutorily authorized request to examine the disputed records so that he could independently verify that the records relating to sexual harassment of students by university employees were or were not, in fact, federally protected “education records.”
Because the Attorney General could not substantiate the universities’ claim of exemption, he ruled against the universities and in favor of The Kernel. The universities responded by suing The Kernel and its student editor.
And, for the first time in the forty plus years since the enactment of the Open Records Law, the Attorney General intervened in the open records dispute between the universities and The Kernel to preserve his office’s statutory right to confidentially review agency records in open records disputes. Until recently, agencies have more or less willingly cooperated with the Attorney General by honoring his requests for the records to ensure proper resolution of the open records issue presented to him on appeal.
The Open Records Law assigns the burden of proving that a denial is proper to the universities in the same section of the same statute that authorizes the Attorney General to obtain disputed records for purposes of substantiating an agency’s denial before rendering an open records decision. Moreover, Kentucky’s courts have declared that an agency “cannot benefit from intentionally frustrating the Attorney General’s review of an open records request; such result would subvert the General Assembly’s intent behind providing review by the Attorney General.”
For these reasons, Judge Wingate repeatedly asked counsel for Kentucky State University why his client objected to providing the disputed records to the Attorney General for statutorily authorized confidential review.
For all the university’s overblown rhetoric concerning the dire consequences of disclosure of sexual harassment records to the Attorney General under an unambiguous statutory mandate, its position is based on a single nonbinding “opinion letter” issued by the federal Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office to the Texas Attorney General in 2006.
In the University of Kentucky’s case, it is more likely based on the non-disparagement clause in the attractive separation agreement it entered into with its rogue professor.
WKU and KSU followed its highly questionable lead.
In the course of this hearing, Judge Wingate repeatedly emphasized the importance of the open records issue presented and the role of the Attorney General. As the parties concluded their arguments, and the courtroom began to fill for the next hearing, he reminded those who had just arrived what the next hearing was about. “Bourbon,” he derisively declared more than once.
He then directly engaged the reporters who were gathering for the hearing on the Pappy Van Winkle heist. He admonished them for their failure to cover the open records hearing that was concluding and suggested that a bourbon heist should not command the level of media attention that a case involving the media’s lifeblood — the open records law — commands.
We are grateful to the Attorney General for his unflagging commitment to preserving the statutory mechanism so vital to the meaningful discharge of his duty under the open records law. But for his candor and indignation — not to mention his unexpected shout out from the bench — the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government wishes to express its appreciation to Judge Thomas Wingate.
Fairfax, VA - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement in support of the Cassidy-Graham legislation:
“For anyone arguing that the Cassidy-Graham bill is not good enough and needs to be better, we agree, it’s not perfect. It’s not close to perfect. But it is the only bill that repeals individual and employer mandates, block grants funding to states and offers waivers for Obamacare regulations that has any chance of passing this year.
“Failure to pass legislation that repeals Obamacare mandates and taxes to reduce health care costs will be a catastrophe politically, as the recent McLaughlin & Associates poll shows, with 66 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Independents saying they are less likely to reelect their Congressman who opposes such legislation.
“Politics aside, the 6.5 million Americans who had to pay the individual mandate, under this bill will no longer be subjected to a tax, and their costs will go down, saving $3 billion based upon 2016 IRS figures. Those who live in states that apply for waivers from Obamacare regulations stand a chance of having their costs go down. And job seekers will no longer be discriminated against for seeking full-time employment because of the employer mandate, will see their incomes rise.
“So, anyone who would sacrifice the granting of regulatory relief for the states, and the destruction of two of the main pillars of Obamacare on the altar of perfection is making a huge mistake. Passage of the Cassidy-Graham bill is the beginning of the end for Obamacare. Failure would legitimize the push for single payer as the only alternative to Obamacare for the vast majority of Americans who do not pay attention to policy nuances. The only thing most people will know is that Republicans failed to keep their promise to replace Obamacare and they can’t be trusted on health care moving forward. That would be a recipe for disaster.”
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- American Federation of Government Employees released the following statement:
“Two years ago, nearly 22 million current and former federal employees, job applicants, and their family members had their most personal and sensitive information stolen from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in one of the largest cyberattacks in U.S. history. Everyone affected deserves to see that justice is served, and that’s why the American Federation of Government Employees was the first organization to sue the federal government over the data breach.
“AFGE brought in the California law firm of Girard Gibbs, one of the nation’s leading firms in the developing area of data breach law. The firm did a great job on behalf of our members. The judge’s unfortunate decision to dismiss AFGE’s case reflects an unduly narrow view of the rights of data breach victims. OPM failed to keep our most private and sensitive information from getting into the hands of Chinese hackers. We are deeply disappointed by the judge’s ruling in favor of OPM.
“AFGE is seriously evaluating all options to challenge this decision and will continue to fight on behalf of the millions of current, future, and retired federal employees and their family members whose lives were forever disrupted by this unprecedented data breach.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Statement by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Lisa Ochs, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees and president of AFT-Kansas; and Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, on the shooting of Kansas Department of Revenue agent Cortney Holloway allegedly by a man facing a warrant for unpaid taxes:
“Every employee has a right to work in a safe, secure environment. Some public employees experience an almost constant sense of vulnerability and fear, such as those entrusted with collecting unpaid taxes and seizing property to pay a tax lien. Kansas state agencies are housed in both public and privately owned buildings, and security or other protective measures vary from building to building. And public employees who work in the field can be especially vulnerable. Employees’ fears turned into reality this week when tax agent Cortney Holloway was shot multiple times in his office, allegedly by a disgruntled man facing a warrant for nearly $200,000 in unpaid taxes. Adequate security measures, not currently used in the privately owned building housing the Department of Revenue, might have prevented this tragedy.
“We call on the state to immediately prepare a vulnerability review/threat assessment for every state government building—public or privately owned—and fieldwork environment to ensure that all employees and others are properly protected. This ultimately could provide a uniform set of security policies that include installation of metal detectors and having armed security guards. A possible model would be the review process for identifying and assessing the safety, security and preparedness of Kansas school buildings and grounds. We also request on-site active shooter training for all public employees.
“KOSE members have complained to management that they fear for their safety, but nothing was done. Something must be done. Our goal is to ensure there is adequate security and protection for state employees and everyone who visits state facilities. We send our thoughts and prayers for Cortney Holloway’s full recovery and for the people who witnessed the unspeakable violence in their workplace.”
Washington, D.C. - September 22, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In response to the news that the Oklahoma City Police Department has killed a deaf man who did not respond to officer commands, the ACLU of Oklahoma released the following statement:
The following is attributable to Allie Shinn, Director of External Affairs:
“We are incredibly saddened and disturbed by the news that an Oklahoma City police officer shot and killed Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf man confronted on his own porch.
“Police have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable modifications in their interactions with people with disabilities. The neighbors put the police on notice that they were dealing with someone who had a disability.
“Merely failing to follow commands is an unacceptable defense for the use of lethal force. We have allowed a dangerous culture of 'us vs. them' to fester among our law enforcement professionals. This killing speaks directly to a warrior culture in which the very people police officers are sworn to protect come to be viewed as the enemy. This culture assumes that an officer’s command, regardless of validity, is more important and more valuable than a human life.
“We as a society must consider whether or not our officers are truly equipped and qualified to serve as a protective force. Evidence is mounting daily that too often many of our officers are more interested in power than in protection.
“Magdiel Sanchez was shot at his own home, without having committed any crime, and in front of neighbors who knew he was deaf trying to communicate to the police that what they were about to do was wrong. Magdiel Sanchez should be alive today.”
Washington, D.C. - September 21, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The American Bar Association updated its new web-based ABA Legal Fact Check today by exploring the limits on presidential executive orders.
On Oct. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s revised Executive Order No. 13780, known as the travel ban. ABA Legal Fact Check looks at the history of these orders, and how they largely went unchecked by the courts until 1952 after President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 10340, which placed all U.S. steel mills under federal control during the Korean War. Later that year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer that President Truman had overstepped his authority because he attempted to make law rather than clarify an existing piece of legislation. In that decision, Justice Robert Jackson, in a concurring opinion, put forth a three-part test to judge the possible overreach of presidential power that is still relied upon by courts today.
ABA Legal Fact Check, debuted last month and is the first fact check website focusing exclusively on legal matters. The project is one of several initiatives launched by Hilarie Bass, who became ABA president on Aug. 15 at the close of the ABA Annual Meeting in New York.
ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the public find dependable answers and explanations to swirling and sometimes confusing legal questions. The URL for the new site is www.abalegalfactcheck.com.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
Washington, D.C. - September 21, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- America's military is under attack by steel and aluminum imports that threaten to wipe out jobs, put U.S. manufacturers out of business, and make national defense more dependent on potential adversaries to equip our troops – if a stalled national security investigation does not conclude.
That was the message delivered by dozens of steelworkers to Members of Congress Tuesday as they descended on Capitol Hill, calling for action to shore up the beleaguered domestic steel and aluminum industries.
The purpose of the Trump administration’s delayed investigations, each known as a Section 232, is to determine the effect of steel and aluminum imports on national security. President Trump promised to unveil the findings of the two separate investigations by the end of June but still hasn’t taken action. Meanwhile, steel imports are up more than 21 percent since the investigations were announced, and China’s steel output continues to grow.
“We’re pretty much at a make or break point now,” said steelworker Calvin Croftcheck, a 40-year industry veteran and chief safety inspector for U.S. Steel. “If we don’t get some relief quickly, and if it’s not substantial relief, that’s not going to help us any.”
Croftcheck was among workers who came to Capitol Hill from steelmaking facilities in eight states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Michigan.
The workers were there to press the importance of the outstanding investigations. A surge of steel and aluminum imports, often heavily subsidized and produced by state-owned enterprises in China and Russia, are among the chief causes behind American plant closures and thousands of layoffs in recent years. This instability puts the reliable supply of these important commodities under tremendous strain, and raises national security concerns. Steel and aluminum are crucial inputs in numerous military platforms and public infrastructures, from battleships and troop carriers to our domestic electric grid.
“We’ve seen an increase in the amount of imports since President Trump made these promises, and lacking the actual action by President Trump, this is actually hurting us,” said Cliff Tobey, a worker at U.S. Steel’s Keetac mining facility on the Minnesota Iron Range. “I really do hope the president stands by his word and does it relatively quickly, because we’re actually seeing an increase (in imports), and that’s not good for the steel industry in the United States.”
In their meetings, the workers urged lawmakers to support President Trump’s investigations and, if necessary, pressure him to follow through on his promises.
"President Trump won industrial states last year by promising a new path on trade and said he'd look out for America's steelworkers," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing and former member of President Trump's Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. “But his delay in action on steel and aluminum has actually made matters worse for these workers and their communities – to say nothing about the serious national security implications created by this ambiguity. The president needs to act now on these investigations.”