Saturday, December 9, 2017

Maloney Introduces Legislation to Block FCC Rollback of Net Neutrality

Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on its proposed rollback of Net Neutrality rules, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY, 18th) introduced the Save Net Neutrality Act (H.R. 4585) to stop the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would result in a final rule eliminating the existing Net Neutrality policy.

“The FCC’s proposal to screw up your internet is just about the worst plan I’ve seen – the comment period was a mess and the rest of the proposal is full of holes,” said Rep. Maloney. “My bill would stop this rule from going into effect and keep the internet the way it is – affordable, open, and full of innovation.”

“People are lifting up their voices for Net Neutrality, and the message is loud and clear,” said Matt Wood, Policy Director, Free Press Action Fund. “The rules and the legal framework we have today at the FCC are working. We have called on Congress to stop Chairman Pai from taking those successful rules away. We don’t need legislators to fix Net Neutrality, we need them to fix the current rules in place. We thank Rep. Maloney for working to do that.”

The FCC offered an NPRM on May 18, 2017 which would rollback Net Neutrality rules established by the Commission in 2015. These rules classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which subjected them to regulation as utilities. Net Neutrality protects the free and open internet by preventing these ISPs from blocking, speeding up or slowing down the transmission of content, or increasing costs to consumers by changing the pricing model that exists today.

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires federal agencies to consider relevant comments as part of the NPRM by establishing a formal comment period and process for considering the opinions of people who would be affected by a new proposed rule. The FCC has come under intense scrutiny for its bungling of the comment process on this proposed rule. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has uncovered evidence that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities used to file fake comments. Additionally, analysis by the Pew Research Center has found that only 3% of the comments received by the FCC definitively went through a verification process to ensure emailed comments came from legitimate accounts. This allowed many comments to be submitted using fake accounts. The analysis provides the example that over 7,500 comments came from the email address  

The Save Net Neutrality Act would simply prevent the FCC from relying on the NPRM process that will conclude with a final vote on December 14th. The bill refrains from making policy prescriptions, but instead invalidates the process that culminates in the creation of an enforceable rule authorized by the APA. Without the ability to rely on the rule, the FCC would have to start the NPRM process over from scratch. 

The bill has been endorsed by the Free Press Action Fund. 

Report: HUD Significantly Undercounts Homeless Population

Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- In response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) release of its 2017 point-in-time (PIT) count of the homeless population in the United States, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) released a new report detailing problems with HUD’s methodology that result in a significant undercount of homeless Americans.

Though HUD reported nearly 554,000 homeless Americans on any given night—itself a number that is unacceptably large—the Law Center’s report suggests this number is actually a significant undercount. The report, Don’t Count on It: How the HUD Point-in-Time Count Underestimates the Homelessness Crisis in America, addresses flaws in HUD’s inconsistent methodology, which particularly misses unsheltered homeless people.

“Homelessness is a national crisis, and an accurate count of people experiencing it is essential to developing and adopting policies that can truly solve the problem,” said Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the Law Center. “A visual street count does not and cannot capture the number of unsheltered homeless people living out of sight, nor does it capture people living in the many outdoor locations that are not even included in the count.”

The report determines that HUD’s current methodology not only omits significant numbers of homeless people, it also leads to inaccurate comparisons and trends analyses, since it is often inconsistent between locations and between years. The Law Center offers recommendations on how HUD and communities can improve their methodology. The report also provides suggestions for how to use the numbers reported under the current methodology.

The report is available here

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VA Reverses Plan to Cut Homeless Veteran Funding

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reversed its decision not to fund homeless veterans. Secretary Shulkin stated:
"There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs.

We will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.

The President has increased VA homeless program funding by $66 million in his fiscal year 2018 budget.

Over the next six months, I will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most.

Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding."

Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County), a veteran, issued the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs reversed its decision to change the funding scheme for programs that benefit homeless veterans. This reversal comes after Rep. Lieu and 11 Members of Congress sent a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin urging him to reconsider the decision, which would have jeopardized the VA’s ability to meet the needs of homeless veterans.

“I commend Secretary Shulkin for protecting funding to help homeless veterans. The Secretary’s commitment to soliciting input from local VA leaders and stakeholders is critical. We need to ensure that funding for crucial programs like joint HUD-VA housing initiatives maintain their special status in the Specific Purpose Fund. This status is crucial for veterans who need affordable, stable housing and access to the services and care.

There is still much work to be done – especially in Los Angeles, where the number of homeless veterans has increased. We need to be doing everything in our power to work towards ending homelessness among veterans."

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Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Al Lawson, along with five of his colleagues and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), wrote Secretary David Shulkin of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to request that the agency annually share information on the number of veterans who struggle with food insecurity. Beginning November 1, 2017, the VA started collecting information regarding food insecurity among veteran’s, agency-wide.

“We ask that you provide a report on the status of veteran food security and hunger screenings to relevant House and Senate oversight committees by November of 2018, along with recommendations about further actions that could be taken to assist veterans who are determined to be food insecure, including pilot programs to test the feasibility of SNAP enrollment and applications assistance by VA personnel,” the members wrote in their letter to Secretary David J. Shulkin. “It is imperative that Members of Congress are briefed by the Administration the progress of this screening tool as well as VA programs and personnel efforts to connect those in need to SNAP and other social services.”

“As we prepare to honor the men and women on Veteran’s Day who have served our country, it is crucial that we know how many of our nation’s veterans and their families are struggling to put food on the table,” Rep. Lawson noted. “These screenings will go a long way in helping Members of Congress and policymakers understand the severity of this problem and identify steps we can take to support our veterans.”

“Asking this screening question is an essential first step to better understand the scope of food insecurity among our nation’s veterans,” says Abby J. Leibman, president & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement appropriate systems and processes to directly help food insecure veterans in applying for and enrolling in nutrition assistance programs like SNAP.”

Representative Lawson was joined by Members of Congress who have direct jurisdiction over veterans and hunger issues: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) of the Senate Agriculture and Armed Services committees, Reps. Lujan Grisham (NM) and James P. McGovern (MA) of the House Agriculture Committee, Seth Moulton (MA) of the House Armed Services Committee, Tim Ryan (OH) of the House Veteran Affairs Subcommittee on Appropriations, and Tim Walz (MN) of the House Agriculture and the Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

U.S. Reps. J. Luis Correa (CA), Peter A. DeFazio (OR), Julia Brownley (CA), Dwight Evans (PA), John Garamendi (CA), Denny Heck (WA), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Chellie Pingree (ME), Jacky Rosen (NV), and David Scott (GA) also signed the letter.

Read the full letter here.

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King Confronts FBI Director Over “Curiosities” of Clinton E-mail Investigation

Washington, D.C. - December 9, 2017  (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Steve King released the following video of his questioning of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray during a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. King used his time to question Director Wray over “curiosities” related to the manner in which the FBI, under the Obama-era leadership of admitted political leaker James Comey, handled the criminal case involving the mishandling of classified information by former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton.

Among the “curiosities” cited by King are: the apparent failures of the FBI to take or preserve notes and/or transcripts, or to record audio or video during their questioning of Mrs. Clinton; the use of an “intent” standard that does not exist in the statute to justify Comey’s decision to let Mrs. Clinton escape prosecution; and Comey’s strange determination that “extreme carelessness”, a standard for which he admits he has evidence of Mrs. Clinton’s guilt, is somehow different than the synonymous “gross negligence” standard that appears in the statute.

Interestingly, in his responses to King, Director Wray admitted that it does not appear standard protocol was followed in the Clinton investigation, and that the statutory “gross negligence” standard is, as King contends, synonymous with a standard of “extreme carelessness.” As such, Mrs. Clinton met the standard for prosecution.

Full Video is available at this link.


18 USC 793 is the federal statute that governs the mishandling of classified information, and it is the applicable statute governing Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified emails on her private server. Before granting Clinton a “get of jail free card,” former FBI Director James Comey stated:

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent.”

As written, 18 USC 793 does not contain a specific “intent” requirement. The applicable standard provided for in statute is that the accused acted with “gross negligence,” a standard Hillary Clinton certainly met based on the existing public evidence, and a standard that appears to be synonymous with the “extreme carelessness” standard Comey has admitted he found prior to absolving Mrs. Clinton.

Claims of an “intent requirement” allowing the previous administration to avoid prosecuting Hillary Clinton criminally appear to be a political invention of former President Obama. After President Obama defended Clinton publically in October of 2015 and April of 2016 by specifically citing Clinton’s supposed “intent,” it appears the Obama-era FBI applied the non-existent standard promoted by the President to their consideration of the Clinton case.

18 USC 793 (f) reads as follows:

“18 USC 793 (f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

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