Monday, September 25, 2017

Byrne Attends STEM Education Signing at the White House

Source: House Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL, 1st)

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL), a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, attended a special ceremony at the White House for the signing of a Presidential Memorandum to promote STEM education.

The Presidential Memorandum calls on the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, including computer science.

Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump and his administration for their commitment to advancing STEM education. STEM is no longer a thing of the future, but it is the reality for today’s workforce. By focusing grant funding in this area, we can help ensure that our students are exposed to the skills necessary to excel in today’s 21st Century economy.”

Irma Wipes Out 70 percent of Florida's Orange Crops

Source: House Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL, 16th)

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- After Hurricane Irma wiped out as much as 70 percent of Florida's orange crop, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan called for immediate action in Congress to help struggling citrus farmers recover.

“Florida farmers are facing an emergency,” Buchanan said. “Between Irma and the devastating citrus greening disease, we can't wait any longer to provide citrus growers with the relief they need.”

Prior to Hurricane Irma, the Florida citrus industry had already experienced a 75 percent drop in production due to citrus greening, an incurable bacterial disease that has infected nearly all of Florida’s commercial citrus groves.

According to Michael Sparks, executive director of Florida Citrus Mutual, Hurricane Irma had a catastrophic effect on Florida citrus. Sparks estimated that nearly every grove in the state has been damaged to some degree by the storm.

Buchanan’s Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act would make it less costly for growers to replace trees damaged by Hurricane Irma or citrus greening. The bill provides tax incentives for farmers who cannot afford to replace damaged trees.

Under current law, growers are allowed an immediate deduction for the cost of replanting trees, but the farmer must bear the full cost. Buchanan’s proposal would allow struggling farmers to use this deduction even if they bring in investors to raise capital for replanting costs, as long as the grower continues to own a major stake in the grove.

“This bill will go a long way toward protecting the livelihoods of the 62,000 hardworking Floridians in our signature citrus industry,” Buchanan said.

Every member of Florida’s 29-member congressional delegation in both the U.S. House and Senate has co-sponsored Buchanan’s legislation, which passed the House by a 400-20 vote in 2016 but did not pass the Senate before Congress adjourned.

The bill has been endorsed by the Bradenton Herald, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Lakeland Ledger, Sun Newspapers, the Panama City News Herald and the Ocala Star-Ledger. The Ledger called Buchanan's legislation a “must pass” while the Bradenton Herald said it was a “no-brainer.”

Experts estimate a 50 to 70 percent crop loss in south Florida from Hurricane Irma. Florida growers are seeing up to 90 percent losses in some places.

Shannon Stepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said “before Hurricane Irma, there was a good chance we would have more than 75 million boxes of oranges on the trees this season; we now have much less.”

Buchanan is a senior member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax legislation.

House Extends Critical Veterans Programs That Brownley Is Fighting to Make Permanent

Source: House Representative Julia Brownly (D-CA, 26th)

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) issued the following statement after House passage of the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017, which extends critical veterans programs through September 2019, including the VA’s child care pilot program, women veterans retreats pilot program, and support services for homeless veterans:

“I am happy the House passed bipartisan legislation extending critical veterans programs. Whether it’s ensuring veterans have access to child care when they have VA appointments, to providing mental health services tailored to the unique needs of women veterans, to putting roofs over the heads of those who are homeless, these VA programs are essential parts of our sacred commitment to care for those who served our nation. Today’s vote is a testament to the success, effectiveness, and popularity of these programs, and I will continue fighting to make them permanent so that every veteran gets the care they have earned and deserve.”

Congresswoman Brownley has been spearheading the effort in Congress to secure the future of important veterans programs, including introducing legislation in January to make permanent the VA’s pilot program on retreats for women veterans (H.R. 91), to expand and make permanent the VA’s child care pilot program (H.R. 95), and to make permanent several homeless veterans assistance programs (H.R. 104). H.R. 91 passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in May, and H.R. 95 passed the full House in July.

Trump Extends Travel Restrictions

Source: House Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA, 11th)
Source: The White House

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, applauded President Trump’s announcement that he will be using his constitutional authority to strengthen security standards for foreign nationals traveling to the United States. President Trump’s enhancement of national security measures per Executive Order 13780 temporarily suspended travel to the United States from eight countries that have strong connections to terrorism, inadequate information sharing services, and poor screening and vetting processes. Five of the countries listed in the executive order have failed to improve their vetting processes to the administration’s baseline standard, and therefore restrictions will be maintained on foreign nationals traveling from these countries. In addition, after further review of our national security protocols, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela have been added to the original five countries and will also face enhanced restrictions.

Barletta released the following statement:

“We are a compassionate nation, one built on legal and orderly immigration, and one which has always offered a place for people seeking better lives. However, our enemies continuously seek to use our generosity against us, and the president has a duty to protect the American people first. We know that ISIS has expressed their intent to use our refugee program to sneak their fighters and sympathizers into our country because our security measures are lacking. We cannot allow this.

“It is also important to recognize that citizens of foreign nations simply do not have the right to unfettered admission to the United States. In hearings before the House Homeland Security Committee under both the Obama and Trump administrations, numerous national security experts and professionals have stated that we simply cannot accurately screen all foreign nationals because we have no information from their home countries to verify their identities. In many cases, we have no idea who is trying to enter our country. I fully support President Trump’s actions to keep America safe, which I believe are only prudent as we work on a system that allows us to verify the identity and background of applicants.”

President Trump said in a press release announcing the restrictions:

“Our government's first duty is to its people, to our citizens -- to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.”

Other statements:

Source: House Representative Don Beyer (D-VA, 8th)

“Donald Trump cannot camouflage his Muslim Ban by adding new countries to it. Its discriminatory roots are still plainly visible. This policy is an attempt to use racial and anti-religious animus to divide people for political ends.

As with previous bans, the Administration provides no evidence that they enhance public safety. Meanwhile, the ban continues to stigmatize millions of Muslim Americans, as well as our key allies in the war on terror.

This policy has been wrong from the start, it is wrong still, and I will continue to oppose it.” to Form the World's First Libertarian Country

Source: Free Society Foundation

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- The Free Society Foundation, spearheaded by its founder Olivier Janssens and other prominent libertarian and cryptocurrency figures, announced its plans to form the world's first libertarian country. They are in preliminary talks with governments to purchase sovereignty and autonomy over a piece of land.

"When we started contacting governments, interest was much higher than initially anticipated", says Mr. Janssens, who has been working on the project for the past several years. "We have backing of over 100 million USD in private capital and are committed to the mission of realizing the world's first Free Society."

Genius in its simplicity by just purchasing sovereignty, it seems this is the first idea that really has a chance of succeeding. In the past, many libertarians have attempted the feat by trying to claim disputed land or by building floating ocean structures. Unfortunately, none of them were successful - either due to push-back from existing governments or being unrealistically complicated.

"There are many nations that have a significant national debt or are in crisis. Our aim is to help them resolve that and create an economic powerhouse next to their doorstep as a bonus. It's a win-win for everyone." Mr. Janssens continues.

Indeed, if successful, a new Monaco or Dubai will bring a tremendous amount of opportunities to the area, one being massive employment.

Roger Ver, one of the co-founders, adds: "I'm incredibly excited to be part of this project that will finally create a society based on voluntary interactions instead of government force."

The Free Society Foundation is exploring ways for the public and interested parties to participate. Many prominent names in the libertarian world are joining their team.

AANP President urges Senate to Ensure Health Care Legislation Upholds Patient Protections, Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions

Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- The following statement is being issued by AANP President Joyce Knestrick, PhD, C-FNP, FAANP:

"As the Senate moves closer to action on health care reform, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) urges Senators to take a measured approach ensuring that any final legislation protects patient access to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that cover the cost of care. There are more than 234,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) delivering health care to patients throughout the country. Currently, three of four NPs treat Medicare beneficiaries, and 78 percent see Medicaid patients. As this process moves forward, proposals must protect affordable coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, uphold the principles of essential benefits, safeguard patients' access to the health care provider of their choice, including nurse practitioners, and strengthen the health care workforce while bringing greater overall efficiency to the health care system."

Weiner And Lasky: Trump Right On China The First Time, Article In LaborPress

Source: Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- In a "National Report from Washington" the first in a monthly series by Robert Weiner and Ben Lasky in LaborPress, Robert Weiner, a former Clinton and Bush White House spokesman, and Ben Lasky, senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change, assert that President Trump was "right on China the first time" in disciplining China on trade violations, and the U.S. received no major benefit from China concerning North Korea.  Instead, after deflating the honest assessment of China's trade practices to get the Chinese government to use leverage on the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), North Korea produced "missile launches, an H-bomb, and a dead prisoner," Weiner and Lasky state.

The article is entitled, "Trump Right on China the First Time". Click HERE to read it.

FAA faces partial shutdown as authorization approaches expiration

Source: Ralph Abraham (R-LA, 5th)

Washington, D.C. - September 25, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Due to news that the Federal Aviation Administration is facing a partial shutdown, Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., issued the following statement in response to a proposed six-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"I will read the bill that’s been proposed and determine whether it is the best path forward at this time. However, I still maintain that we ultimately need a long-term FAA authorization that does not place control of our nation’s skies in the hands of a corporate board," Dr. Abraham said.