Monday, November 27, 2017

Protecting African Elephants

Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) led a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke calling on the Department to officially halt any reversal of the ban on importing sport-hunted African elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and 20 other Democratic Senators joined Menendez in demanding answers to 9 specific questions about the decision.

Last week, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a decision to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia, stating it would “enhance the survival of the African elephant.” This decision followed a similar one pertaining to sport-hunted lion trophies last month. The original decision to ban the importation came after inadequate domestic conservation programs failed to rely on scientific data and proven conservation practices.

“[W]e find it unconscionable that the USFWS has reversed its finding that the conservation programs in these countries fail to meet its standards without sufficient analysis and evidence to ensure that this plan has led to real changes on the ground,” the senators wrote.

After outrage spread on social media over the apparent decision, President Trump tweeted that the decision was on hold, and then tweeted two days later that he “will be very hard pressed to change [his] mind.”

“Additionally, the President has tweeted that the decision is currently on hold, but USFWS had already published its decision in the Federal Register, and no subsequent updates have been made,” the senators wrote. “While we appreciate that additional reviews may be underway, the fact remains that tweets alone do not constitute substantive federal policy without commensurate agency action and do not negate the need to file appropriate public notice.”

In 2015, Senator Menendez introduced the CECIL Animal Trophies Act to disincentivize trophy killings of species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

This prompted Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) who led a bipartisan group of lawmakers urging Donald Trump to retain the U.S. ban on the importation of African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

In a letter to Trump, the lawmakers wrote: “It is imperative that we continue to lead conservation efforts that strengthen local communities and prohibit poaching. African elephants are treasured by people the world over. They are worth far more alive than dead, drawing millions of wildlife-watching tourists who contribute billions to local economies across the continent. As Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, we are in firm agreement that it is of the utmost importance to continue protections for threatened and endangered species both at home and abroad.”

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North Korea Designated State Sponsor of Terrorism Last Week

Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- North Korea has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Trump's announcement last week garnered support from Congress.

House Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY, 1st) commented, “An increasingly rogue nation, North Korea has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international law and human life through its active pursuit of nuclear capabilities, support of assassinations on foreign soil, and other nefarious activities. We cannot afford to disregard the real and escalating threat North Korea poses to the United States and our allies around the world. The President’s redesignation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terror is critical to ensuring the U.S. has the resources it needs to apply effective diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang that protects America's security at home and abroad.”

In 1988, North Korea was added to the state sponsors of terrorism list following the 1987 bombing of South Korean Air Flight 858, but was removed in 2008 amid nuclear negotiations by President George W. Bush. Since its removal, North Korea has launched cyber attacks against civilian targets, supported assassinations on foreign soil, sold arms to terrorist organizations, and consistently tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. This year, American student Otto Warmbier was brutally tortured at the hands of Kim Jong Un’s regime which resulted in Warmbier’s eventual death.

Ted Yoho (R-FL, 3rd) called the move "overdue", and stated, “North Korea’s consistent record of facilitating terror is beyond dispute, from the callous murder of American college student Otto Warmbier to the use of a banned chemical weapon to assassinate Kim’s half-brother to sales of arms to terrorist groups around the world.

“Duly labeling North Korea a State Sponsor of Terror will reiterate to the globe that Kim’s nefarious activities have no place in the civilized world, further discouraging intercourse with this dangerous regime. Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranking North Korea defector in decades, told me during his testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee that this redesignation will help keep up the pressure on Kim. I thank the administration for taking this important step.”

Jackie Walorski (R-IN, 2nd) voiced strong support for the designation, saying, "Congress will continue working with the administration to counter Kim Jong-un’s dangerous and destabilizing actions and to protect the safety and security of the American people.”

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 27th), Chairman Emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement after the announcement that North Korea will be redesignated as a state sponsor of terrorism:

“Ever since 2008, I have been adamant that North Korea should be redesignated as a state sponsor of terrorism. In addition to a host of illegal and belligerent acts against civilian targets worldwide, the Kim regime has directly supported terrorist groups as part of a destructive nexus with Iran and Syria. Redesignating North Korea provides the administration with important tools to increase pressure on the Kim regime and I commend the decision to put it back on the list where it belongs."

Ros-Lehtinen is the author of the North Korea Sanctions and Diplomatic Nonrecognition Act, introduced in previous Congresses beginning in 2009. Among other provisions, the bill detailed North Korean acts that can be defined as international terrorism and expressed the sense of Congress that North Korea should be redesignated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

"There is no question that North Korea has engaged in acts of terrorism endangering the United States and the security of our allies. I fully support President Trump declaring North Korea a state sponsor of terror and increasing sanctions against Pyongyang. North Korea must be held accountable for their actions, including the way they treat their own people,” stated House Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN, 4th).

“I commend President Trump’s decision to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Under the reign of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s provocative actions have only increased, and today’s designation to further isolate this rogue regime sends a strong message to our allies and adversaries that we take this threat seriously and will use every tool at our disposal to hold this tyrannical despot accountable,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) chimed in with, "Nuclear-armed North Korea has a long history of cooperating with Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime on ballistic missiles, continues to commit egregious human rights violations against its own people, and is responsible for the recent death of American citizen Otto Warmbier. The United States and other countries, including China, must do everything in our power to end the Kim regime's growing nuclear and missile threats, and bring about a denuclearized Korean peninsula.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) supported the decision, stating, “This designation will serve as an important tool to exert peaceful pressure on the North Korean regime. I will continue to press the State Department to explore all available options to hold this regime accountable for its actions and prevent their continued dangerous behavior.”

Under the recently-enacted Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the State Department was required to inform Congress on whether North Korea meets the criteria as a state sponsor of terrorism. Portman led a bipartisan letter to the State Department on October 2 outlining the many destabilizing and terror-related acts taken by this rogue regime.

All of these reactions came from Republicans. As usual, when Trump does something right, the Democrats remain silent. God forbid they ever praise him for anything.

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Several Bills Signed Into Law Last Week

Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, the President signed into law:

H.R. 194, the "Federal Agency Mail Management Act of 2017,"

which requires the General Services Administration to provide guidance and assistance to Federal agencies to ensure effective processing of the mail;

H.R. 1545, the "VA Prescription Data Accountability Act of 2017," which require the Department of Veterans Affairs to disclose information about covered individuals to State controlled substance monitoring programs to help to prevent misuse and diversion of prescription medications;

H.R. 1679, the "FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017," which requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that the ongoing modernization of grant systems for the administration of disaster assistance include specified features to improve applicant accessibility and transparency;

H.R. 3243, the "FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017," which extends and makes permanent several provisions of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA); and

H.R. 3949, the "Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity

Reform (VALOR) Act of 2017," which provides for the designation of State approving agencies for multi-state apprenticeship programs for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Leahy Slams Border Wall Funding As “Bumper Sticker Budgeting”

Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) --Slamming the proposal as “bumper sticker budgeting,” Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday focused on a provision in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would provide $1.6 billion from American taxpayers for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

Leahy said: “This is bumper sticker budgeting to save face for one of President Trump’s failed campaign promises. Instead of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars to fund this costly and ineffective proxy for real action on immigration reform, we should be directing our resources toward finding cures for cancer, building schools for our children, feeding the hungry, rebuilding our infrastructure and real security. We should be investing in what brings us together, not building walls that drive us apart.”

Placed in strategic locations identified by the Department of Homeland Security as being in need of additional security to prevent illegal border crossings or other illicit activities, the United States already has 654 miles of pedestrian fencing or vehicle barriers along its southern border. The additional 74 miles of President Trump’s border wall proposed in the appropriations bill is estimated to impact 900 landowners and cost as much as $22 million per mile. With legal disputes still ongoing from border wall construction a decade ago in Texas, the legal costs of new construction are expected to be astronomical and drawn out over years.

With illegal border crossings on the decline and apprehensions along the southern border reaching historic lows, Leahy argued that American tax dollars should be spent elsewhere and invested in the American people. If the bill had gone through markup in the full Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy would have offered an amendment that would have blocked funding for the wall unless it was paid for by Mexico, as President Trump promised.

Leahy said: “President Trump ran on a clear campaign promise – he was going to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and Mexico would pay for it. He could not have been clearer. I have also been clear about how I feel about this misguided campaign promise. Building a wall along our southern border is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an insult to our neighbor to the South. From every perspective, this costly wall is an unwelcome turkey.”

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Conyers Sexual Harassment Charge Under Investigation

Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, has stepped down from his post in light of sexual harassment allegations on Monday. Conyers' lawyer maintained that the Pelosi "icon" was not going to resign, however. This has sparked comments and feigned outrage among Democrats in Congress about the charges.

Maxine Waters (D-CA, 43rd) went on the defensive in light of a recent speech at a women's luncheon, with, “When I delivered remarks at the Women’s March Convention Sojourner Truth Luncheon in Detroit, Michigan on October 28, 2017, I acknowledged the women of the United States Congress’ Michigan delegation, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and gave particular recognition to Congressman John Conyers, Jr. whose district includes Detroit. I had no prior knowledge of the very serious and disturbing allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by Mr. Conyers that were first revealed on November 20, 2017, nearly one month after the event. My October 28 comments were solely based on Mr. Conyers’ long history of support for women’s issues and organizations such as the National Organization for Women."

Outraged that sexual harassment claims could be made in Congress, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY, 12th) exclaimed, “There can be no tolerance – whether in Congress or any workplace - for sexual misconduct. We have spent too many years allowing these incidents to be kept a secret and predatory behavior to go on without consequence. Enough is enough. Standards need to change, and we in Congress must start with ourselves. The current system for reporting such incidents in Congress is antithetical to justice. Forcing victims into mandatory mediation with their abuser revictimizes those who chose to come forward. No one should be mandated to wait 90 days to file their formal complaint. This long, dragged out process places an undue burden on victims while shielding abusers. I support a rewrite of these rules through currently proposed legislation like the Me Too Congress Act which will make the reporting process fairer and require staff and Member training to punish and prevent such behaviors.”

This prompted Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th) to demand, “The reports about Congressman Conyers are as serious as they get. The Committee on Ethics should take up this matter immediately with a goal of promptly assessing the validity of the news account. This reported behavior cannot be tolerated in the House of Representatives or anywhere else.”

“The allegations against Ranking Member Conyers are extremely serious and deeply troubling. Obviously, these allegations must be investigated promptly by the Ethics Committee. There can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct alleged. We also must support efforts to reform the way the House of Representatives handles these matters to make the process easier and more supportive of victims, as well as more transparent,” said Jerrold Nadler (D-NY, 10th).

Dina Titus (D-NV, 1st) later stated, “The Ethics Committees in both chambers must investigate credible allegations of sexual harassment. My office has a zero-tolerance policy without exception. Other offices should do the same. Starting with President Trump, no candidate or politician should serve if he or she is guilty of such unspeakable acts. As Minority Leader of the Nevada State Senate, I pushed through the first sexual harassment policy for legislators and lobbyists in 1999. As a member of Congress, I am continuing that effort by supporting much-needed reforms on Capitol Hill.”

This is going to be an interesting ride, ya'll. Hang on to your seats!

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Office Of The Governor Offers Reward In Murder Case Of Texas Border Patrol Agent

Austin, TX - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Governor Greg Abbott has authorized a reward up to $20,000 through the Texas Crime Stoppers program for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the serious injury of another. All tips are guaranteed to be anonymous.

Agent Rogelio Martinez died Sunday as a result of injuries sustained while on patrol in the Big Bend area. His partner, who was injured, remains in the hospital in serious condition.

“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the brave men and women of the United States Border Patrol who serve every day to protect our homeland,” said Governor Abbott. “Cecilia and I offer our deepest condolences to the families of the agents killed and seriously injured in this attack. As authorities continue their investigation, it is important that they receive any and all information to help apprehend and deliver swift justice to those responsible.”

To be eligible for the cash rewards, anyone with information on fugitives can provide anonymous tips in three different ways:

  • Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477)
  • Text the letters ‘DPS’ - followed by your tip - to 274637 (CRIMES) from your cell phone
  • Submit a web tip by visiting

    Texas Crime Stoppers is a program within the Office of the Governor under the Criminal Justice Division (and administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety) that encourages, supports and fosters the development of local crime stoppers organizations as a way to prevent crime. This grant is provided under the Crime Stoppers Fallen Hero Reward program.

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  • Court Strikes Abortion Buffer Zone Law

    Newark, NJ - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- A New Jersey federal court struck down a City of Englewood eight-foot buffer zone that prohibits pro-life speech near abortion facilities. Applying the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous 2014 opinion in McCullen v. Coakley, which held unconstitutional an identically worded Massachusetts buffer zone law, the New Jersey court ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment.

    The decision provides fresh optimism for Liberty Counsel's lawsuit against the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to strike down the twenty-foot buffer zone ordinance passed by the City at the behest of Planned Parenthood. The Harrisburg ordinance violates the constitutional rights of Liberty Counsel's clients Becky Biter and Colleen Reilly, who are Christian sidewalk counselors being prevented from telling women about alternatives to abortion they will not hear once inside Planned Parenthood. Just as in Englewood, the Harrisburg City Council failed to consider any less restrictive alternatives to its speech ban, opting instead to become enthusiastic agents for the Planned Parenthood agenda.

    Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania are in the same federal appellate jurisdiction, covered by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where Liberty Counsel has already secured an early victory in the Harrisburg case. The Harrisburg trial court is now bound by the favorable Third Circuit ruling as the case proceeds, and should be favorably influenced by the plainly sound reasoning of its sister court in New Jersey.

    "The New Jersey decision is a great example of clear constitutional reasoning, uncorrupted by the 'abortion distortion' that has pervaded so many court decisions since Roe v. Wade," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The decision should be an encouragement to pro-life sidewalk counselors around the country, and a warning to state and local governments who increasingly abdicate their duties to uphold the constitutional rights of their citizens in order to carry water for Planned Parenthood," said Staver.

    Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

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    San Diego Abortion Facility Where Abortionist Engaged in Demonic Rant Has Closed

    By Cheryl Sullenger

    San Diego, CA - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- FPA Women’s Health, a chain of California abortion facilities, has shut down its troubled office on Miramar Road in San Diego, effective on Friday, November 17, 2017.

    The San Diego location was the site of an incident involving abortionist Robert Santella and pro-life activist Zephaniah Mel. Santella threatened Mel with a pair of surgical scissors during a bizarre demonic rant, that included hissing and a confession that he loved killing children during abortions.

    That behavior, along with complaints of malpractice and botched abortions, resulted in Santella’s firing from the abortion chain, which he had been affiliated with for over 30 years. Santella was forced to surrender his medical license after the California Medical Board charged him with negligence and unprofessional conduct.

    Operation Rescue confirmed that Santella’s medical license has been surrendered and his private office on College Avenue in San Diego, where he also conducted abortions, is also closed.

    The FPA office was also the scene of several medical emergencies that required ambulance transport, including one in September 2015, when a mother accompanying her daughter for an abortion was forced to call an ambulance for her bleeding daughter when the FPA Women’s Health staff refused. Her action likely saved her daughter’s life.

    FPA Women’s Health has had a presence in San Diego County since the 1980s. The high-volume abortion business, which once boasted that its “doctors” spent only three minutes per patient completing abortions, has been forced to move a number of times.

    While located in La Mesa, California, in the 1990s, the FPA abortion facility was the site of numerous large pro-life sit-ins, that resulted in the arrests of several peaceful protesters. In early 2002, the abortion business’ landlord finally evicted them from their office. FPA relocated Sixth Avenue across from Balboa Park, until being forced to move again when the building they occupied was slated for demolition. Their most recent address on Miramar Road was considered an odd location since it was situated in the middle of a furniture mall.

    Two years ago, a pro-life alternatives facility, Turning Point Pregnancy Resource Center, moved in next door to the abortion facility, and impacted FPA’s business by offering women assistance and positive alternatives to abortion.

    Now, Operation Rescue has confirmed that the San Diego FPA abortion business is relocating once again, this time to the more conservative East County community of El Cajon. That facility is located at 1625 E. Main Street, Suite 202, in El Cajon — right next to an Albertson’s grocery store, which is sure to create tension in the community.

    “We are thankful that this abortion business has been once again forced to move, thanks to the prayers and action of pro-life activists, who have been so faithful on the sidewalks throughout the decades. When abortion businesses relocate, it usually results in a loss of business – which means babies’ lives are spared,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “We pray the El Cajon FPA office shuts down soon and has nowhere to relocate.”

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    Flanagan: Landmark Middle Class Income Tax Cuts to Take Effect January 1

    Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017  (The Ponder News) --
    New York State Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan today announced that the state’s landmark middle class tax cuts will take effect on January 1. Authored by the Senate GOP, this tax relief program will save taxpayers billions of dollars of their hard-earned money and help tens of thousands of small businesses grow, thrive, and create new jobs.

    One of the largest tax cuts in state history, this Senate Republican-driven cut will reduce middle class tax rates by 20 percent and ultimately provide $4.2 billion in annual savings for individuals and small businesses.

    “New York’s taxpayers need and deserve real tax relief and the Senate Republicans are not only listening, but delivering,” Senator Flanagan said. “We have led the way on controlling state spending, capping local property taxes, and soon, millions of middle class taxpayers will get to keep more of their income to invest and spend as they see fit. This tax savings will continue to be key to creating better opportunities for middle class New Yorkers and ensuring our state is more affordable for both businesses and families.”

    Senator Catharine Young, Chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, said, “This historic tax relief will allow middle class families to achieve a better quality of life because they will keep more from their paychecks. Hardworking taxpayers will be able to afford to buy more goods and services, which in turn will grow more jobs and economic prosperity. Senate Republicans are fighting hard for taxpayers and leading the way so that every New Yorker has the opportunity to succeed.”

    The tax cut plan reduces personal income tax rates for more than 4.4 million New Yorkers and tens of thousands of small businesses in the first year alone. For middle class taxpayers, savings will average approximately $250 in 2018 and grow to $700 annually. The cuts will save a total of $6.6 billion in just the first four years.

    State income tax rates will become the lowest since 1948, with the rate decreasing from 6.85 to 5.5 percent when fully phased in, representing a 20 percent tax reduction and $4.2 billion in annual savings for 6 million middle class taxpayers.

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    Mad-cow Disease Could be Transmittable by Touch

    Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- National Institutes of Health scientists and collaborators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, have detected abnormal prion protein in the skin of nearly two dozen people who died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). The scientists also exposed a dozen healthy mice to skin extracts from two of the CJD patients, and all developed prion disease. The study results, published in Science Translational Medicine, raise questions about the possible transmissibility of prion diseases via medical procedures involving skin, and whether skin samples might be used to detect prion disease. Researchers from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) were co-leaders of the study, which included multiple collaborating groups. They stress that the prion-seeding potential found in skin tissue is significantly less than what they have found in studies using brain tissue.

    CJD is an incurable — and ultimately fatal  —  transmissible, neurodegenerative disorder in the family of prion diseases. Prion diseases originate when normally harmless prion protein molecules become abnormal and gather in clusters and filaments in the human body and brain. The reasons for this process are not fully understood.  The accumulation of these clusters has been associated with tissue damage that leaves sponge-like holes in the brain. Human prion diseases include fatal insomnia; kuru; Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome; and variant, familial and sporadic CJD. Sporadic CJD is the most common human prion disease, affecting about one in one million people annually worldwide. Other prion diseases include scrapie in sheep; chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose; and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, in cattle.

    Most people associate prion diseases with the brain, although scientists have found abnormal infectious prion protein in other organs, including the spleen, kidney, lungs and liver. Sporadic CJD is known to be transmissible by invasive medical procedures involving the central nervous system and cornea, but transmission via skin had not been a common concern.

    Using a test for prion diseases known as Real-Time Quaking-Induced Conversion (RT-QuIC), scientists analyzed skin tissue from 38 patients — 23 who had died from CJD, and 15 who died of other causes. They also collected brain tissue from the 23 CJD patients and from seven individuals who died of other causes. RT-QuIC correctly detected abnormal prion protein in each CJD patient sample tested and in none of the non-CJD group. The scientists noted that in the CJD group, the “seeding potential” for normal prion protein to convert to abnormal was 1,000 to 100,000 times lower in skin than brain tissue.

    The scientists then exposed humanized laboratory mice to either brain or skin extracts from two of the CJD patients. All 12 mice inoculated with brain tissue developed prion disease, as did all 12 inoculated with skin extracts, though disease in the skin group took about twice as long — roughly 400 days —  to develop. The group also reported that brain degeneration in both groups of infected mice was similar.

    The study authors say the results should generate discussion about potential surgical instrument contamination and risk associated with procedures involving CJD patients.

    “Perspective is important when interpreting these outcomes,” said Byron Caughey, Ph.D., a senior investigator at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) who helped oversee the study. “This study used humanized mice with tissue extracts directly inoculated into the brain, so the system was highly primed for infection. There is no evidence that transmission can occur in real-world situations via casual skin contact. However, the results raise transmission questions that warrant further study.”

    The study also raises the possibility of using RT-QuIC with skin tissue samples as a diagnostic test for human and animal prion diseases. The test is widely used with samples of brain and spinal-fluid for the diagnosis of CJD, but such samples are not always available.

    “Our objective has always been to facilitate RT-QuIC testing using the most broadly available and least-invasive sample possible, whether that is blood, skin, nasal brushings, or other samples,” Dr. Caughey said. His research group has developed RT-QuIC over the past decade at RML, where he also has trained many international colleagues to use and advance the test.

    Dr. Caughey’s group is continuing its development of RT-QuIC applications, including further studies of when and where the pathological prion protein appears in skin, and how to effectively inactivate its infectious forms.

    NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses.

    NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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    Trump Admin Plans Surveillance of Immigrants’ Social Media

    Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- A group of Senators have sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke calling into question a recent notice by the Trump Administration that DHS would retain “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” of immigrants, including that of lawful permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens.

    “Without any information explaining the scope and timing of the Department’s plans to implement social media screening of all applicants for immigration benefits, we are concerned with the constitutional and privacy concerns raised by this action,” wrote the senators. “Not only does this data collection affect immigrants, it would appear to impact any individual in the United States who communicates with an immigrant, including a U.S. citizen.”

    Seen as the latest chapter in President Trump’s broader anti-immigrant agenda, the announcement was immediately condemned by civil rights organizations and immigrant rights groups as a flagrant attempt to intimidate people who have immigrated to this country by censoring their free speech rights. The Senator’s missive asks Acting Secretary Duke to answer a series of questions on the lawfulness and rationale behind a program to indefinitely store electronic communications of citizens and non-citizen immigrants.

    A copy of the letter is available Here .

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    Chicago City Council Votes To Continue Legal Protection Fund

    Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Last week, Chicago City Council voted to continue to allocate funding for the Chicago Legal Protection Fund in 2018.

    That budget vote meant that several organizations will have the opportunity to continue providing legal education and representation for Chicago immigrants who are living under increasing threat of deportation by the Trump administration.

    To date in 2017, the Legal Protection Fund has allowed the National Immigrant Justice Center to provide legal consultations to about 1,700 Chicagoans and legal representation in nearly 900 cases to help immigrants apply for affirmative forms of relief or defend themselves against deportation. The Resurrection Project  and Community Navigator organizations have reached over 22,000 Chicagoans through “know your rights” presentations and other community education efforts.

    “The Legal Protection Fund has been critical this year to helping us get information to communities about how they can defend their rights and understand their legal options,” said Ruth Lopez McCarthy, the Fund’s managing attorney at NIJC. “Thanks to the Fund, we have been able to educate thousands of Chicagoans about their rights and provide legal representation to help them navigate the system. We are grateful for this continued support from the City of Chicago and City Council to ensure we can continue to provide legal services for another year.”

    “Continuing funds for the Legal Protection Fund demonstrates Chicago’s commitment to its immigrant community,” said Raul Raymundo, chief executive officer of TRP. “The Fund allows us and our partner organizations to reach thousands of Chicagoans to protect our families from deportation by arming them with their rights, showing up with them at court and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-ins, and connecting them to legal counsel.”

    Since the Fund launched in January 2017, the Trump administration has stripped legal status from nearly one million immigrants nationwide with the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has significantly increased its presence in Chicago neighborhoods, and the administration has been explicit in its intentions of placing any undocumented immigrant its agents encounter into deportation proceedings.

    In the first nine months of 2017, with support from the Fund, NIJC was able to provide legal services to 90 percent more Chicagoans than during the same period in 2016. To read more about the Fund’s accomplishments, read NIJC and TRP’s October 2017 report.

    The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education.

    The Resurrection Project is a multifaceted organization that seamlessly blends community development, community organizing, human service delivery, and advocacy to build healthier and engaged communities. Since its founding in 1990 with an initial seed capital of $30,000, TRP has leveraged more than $431 million in community reinvestment through homes for ownership, rental housing, small businesses and community facilities. To date TRP has developed 733 units of affordable housing, and created over 264,000 square feet of community commercial space, creating vibrant, healthier and involved communities.