Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Farm Bill Strengthens SNAP-Education, Lacks Focus on Diet Quality

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- The following is a statement on the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force co-chairs former secretaries of agriculture Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.:

“The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress contains major wins for SNAP-Education, healthy food incentives, and innovative nutrition pilots. These are important issues that are consistent with recommendations by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force released earlier this year. However, we believe more needs to be done in the 116th Congress to make diet quality a priority in the program.

“This legislation directs USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to provide key technical assistance to support states in implementing and evaluating SNAP-Education. Given adequate appropriations, these changes will be a major step towards strengthening the nation’s largest and most important federal nutrition education and obesity prevention program.

“Also commendable in the bipartisan legislation is the funding increase for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI). FINI’s funds increase from $100 million to $250 million over five years. With these additional funds, FINI will be able to support more projects that incentivize fruits and vegetables to SNAP participants. Equally encouraging is the $4 million per year for the new Harvesting Health pilot project to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals that suffer from or are at-risk of developing a diet-related health condition. Innovative pilots like this are key to mitigating the costs of the diet-related disease crisis currently threatening our health care system, economy, and national security.

“Among these successes, there were also missed opportunities. Although this new Farm Bill supports fruit and vegetables incentives, research has shown that positive incentives combined with targeted disincentives for foods devoid of nutritional value, like sugar-sweetened beverages, are the most effective way of consistently improving diets. Exploring combined incentives and disincentives can still be done through robust pilots and research.

“Furthermore, we wish the 2018 Farm Bill had made diet-quality an explicit SNAP priority. SNAP’s current core objectives—fiscal integrity and food security—are critically important, but the primary focus of the program should be on nutrition. Luckily, this can still be done through voluntary internal policy change at the USDA, which we would wholeheartedly support.

“Despite these shortcomings, we applaud the committees’ bipartisan work and encourage the 116th Congress to create more bipartisan legislation that improves nutrition, promotes better health outcomes, and reduces healthcare costs while continuing to effectively meet the needs of America’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Related News:

Bread for the World Applauds Passage of the Farm Bill

AEM Hails Farm Bill Passage

Association of Equipment Manufacturers

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) issued the following statement praising Congress’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill:

“This is a win-win for the 1.3 million men and women of our industry and the broader U.S. economy,” said John Lagemann, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Deere & Company and AEM Chair. “Farm policies have a major impact on the health of the agriculture economy, which is a key driver of equipment manufacturing employment. We applaud Congress on its bipartisan effort to pass this much-needed legislation and look forward to President Trump signing the 2018 Farm Bill into law.”

The 2018 Farm Bill now heads to White House for President Trump’s signature.

"The U.S. agriculture economy is the backbone of rural America, which underscores why passing pro-agriculture and pro-manufacturing policies are so important,” said Dennis Slater, president of AEM. “By signing the 2018 Farm Bill, President Trump will help preserve and expand programs important to the health of the farm economy and strengthen the U.S. agriculture equipment industry.”

Earlier this year, AEM sent Members of the U.S Senate a letter urging elected officials to pass the bill by highlighting the strong connection farm tractor and combine sales have with farm net cash income and showing how amendments harming crop insurance could negatively impact the agricultural economy.

The Agriculture Improvement Act includes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which is designed to improve rural broadband infrastructure, as well as policies that support production agriculture, conservation programs, research, expansion to foreign markets, and crop insurance – which helps protect up to 298 million acres of farmland a year.

There are 320,000 agricultural equipment manufacturing workers in the U.S. and the agricultural equipment manufacturing industry generates $102 billion in sales activity each year.

Funding the wall is a national security priority, ALG launches

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement urging Congress to work on funding the southern border wall in the December spending bill:

“Funding the wall is a national security priority that can no longer be ignored. It is quite frankly absurd that Republicans in Congress have punted this issue for almost two years always claiming that they would get to ‘tomorrow’. Now there is no tomorrow. Congress should appropriate the funds necessary to build the wall and secure the border using a lockbox to ensure that future Congresses cannot rescind that decision. The truth is that if Republicans in Congress had fought for and won wall funding during the past two years, the nation would not find itself with Nancy Pelosi ready to become House Speaker in 2019. Failed leadership on the nation’s priorities caused a failed campaign in November by Republicans. Now the GOP has one last chance to get it right and if the Democrats choose to shut down the government in protest, that decision is on their heads.

“To support building the wall, Americans for Limited Government has launched to urge activists to contact Congress now.”


“Don’t back down on the gov’t shutdown and the wall, Mr. President,” By Robert Romano, Dec. 12, 2018

Small modular nuclear reactors cut costs for a diverse portfolio

American Public Power Association
December 12, 2018
Recent scholarly studies cast doubt on whether wind and solar power alone can address global climate change without support from nuclear power.

One of the reports, “The Future of Nuclear Power in a Carbon-Constrained World,” written by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, acknowledges concerns about the costs of nuclear power but says that a generation portfolio that does not include nuclear power, particularly new, alternative nuclear technologies, could ultimately raise the cost of fighting global climate change.


HHS seeks input on how to improve HIPAA rules

American Hospital Association

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights will accept comments through Feb. 11 on potential changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules to promote coordinated, value-based care, according to a request for information released today.

In addition to broad input on the HIPAA rules, the RFI seeks comments on specific areas of the Privacy Rule, including encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination; facilitating parental involvement in care; addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness; accounting for disclosures of protected health information; and changing the requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices.

“In addressing the opioid crisis, we’ve heard stories about how the Privacy Rule can get in the way of patients and families getting the help they need,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “We’ve also heard how the Rule may impede other forms of care coordination that can drive value. I look forward to hearing from the public on potential improvements to HIPAA, while maintaining the important safeguards for patients’ health information.”

The AHA plans to submit comments.

Christian teacher fired for not caving to transgender student demands

American Family Association
December 12, 2018
According to, a teacher at West Point High School in Virginia was fired just last Thursday over his religious objections to using male pronouns when referring to a student who is biologically female but identifies as male.


Court orders end to abortion-pill mandate for six Christian organizations

Alliance Defending Freedom

Denver, CO - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- A federal district court issued an order Tuesday that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s abortion-pill mandate against six Christian organizations represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the organizations’ rights protected by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The previous administration’s mandate forces most employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. The current administration’s Department of Justice abandoned its defense of the flawed mandate.

“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government. Tuesday’s order fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.

“These faith-based organizations no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs that they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization,” Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these items without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”

The six organizations—Association of Christian Schools International, Samaritan Ministries International, Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and ADF—specifically object to providing coverage for abortifacients.

“First, plaintiffs have demonstrated that requiring them to comply with [the mandate], to the extent such compliance conflicts with plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs, violates plaintiffs’ rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…. Second, plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm unless defendants are enjoined from interfering with plaintiffs’ practice of their religious beliefs.…,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado wrote in its order in Association of Christian Schools International v. Azar, adding that “the public interest in the vindication of religious freedom favors the entry of a permanent injunction.”

Other federal district courts have issued similar orders in recent months for Christian organizations in Oklahoma, Indiana, California, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. ADF attorneys and allied attorneys continue to litigate numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.

Friday, December 7, 2018

BIC Files Lawsuit to Stop Importation and Sale of Unlawful, Imitation Pocket Lighters

BIC Corporation
December 6, 2018
BIC, a recognized world leader in manufacturing safe, high-quality stationery, lighters and shavers, announced that it has filed lawsuits before the International Trade Commission ("ITC") and the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York to stop the importation and/or sale in the United States of low-quality, Chinese-made knock-off pocket lighters that imitate the iconic design of BIC's lighters. This infringement of BIC's registered trademarks not only negatively impacts the brand equity and reputation that the Company has earned in connection with its pocket lighter over the past 45 years, but more importantly has allowed the defendants to introduce products into the marketplace likely to confuse and mislead the American consumer.


Consumer Watchdog Calls On Pelosi To Stop Lame-Duck Preemption of New California Privacy and Auto Safety Laws; Industry Deal Threatens To Undo CA's Robot Car and Privacy Standards

Consumer Watchdog Calls On Pelosi To Stop Lame-Duck Preemption of New California Privacy and Auto Safety Laws; Industry Deal Threatens To Undo CA's Robot Car and Privacy Standards
Consumer Watchdog
December 6, 2018
New amendments to SB 1885, the AV START Act, give automakers a specific exemption from state privacy law and give exclusive jurisdiction to Trump's Federal Trade Commission. The self-driving car bill is expected to be added to the federal spending bill, which would circumvent the current hold on the legislation by Senator Feinstein and four other senators.


Pitt unconstitutionally assesses student club $5,500+ for Ben Shapiro event

Source: Alliance Defending Freedom

Pittsburgh, PA - December 7, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the University of Pittsburgh on behalf of Young America’s Foundation and a student group assessed unconstitutional fees for a Nov. 14 YAF-sponsored event featuring New York Times bestselling author and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

Just two days before the event, the university informed sponsoring student organization College Republicans that the event would be cancelled if they didn’t agree to pay more than $5,500 in security costs based on the possibility of “controversy” and “protests” in opposition to Shapiro. The letter asks the university to rescind the fee assessment and modify its policy.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear: Public universities can’t enact policies that stifle free speech simply because administrators fear protestors might show up or students might be offended,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Larcomb. “The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if the speaker can be forced to pay money simply because somebody may object. The Supreme Court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones Pitt has assessed, aren’t constitutionally permissible.”

Students followed the university’s policies and procedures for scheduling the Shapiro event, notifying the university of their plans several months in advance. In addition, YAF previously signed a contract with the university on Oct. 18 on Shapiro’s behalf, stating unequivocally that the university would provide Pitt Police Security and “all house personnel necessary” for the event. Nonetheless, two days before the event, the university breached its contract with YAF and assessed an additional fee based on the anticipated content and views of Shapiro’s speech and the prediction that students would find offense and conduct protests.

As the ADF letter explains, “The Supreme Court made clear, ‘[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’ Imposing security fees based on the beliefs offered by YAF, College Republicans and their speaker—Ben Shapiro—is viewpoint discrimination.”

The letter continues: “Further, university guidelines allow for the assessment of fees based on the potential negative reactions of listeners. Per university guidelines, school administrators must consider ‘prior security concerns at speaker’s past presentations’ and ‘other events taking place on campus.’ Both of these factors are content-based because both require university officials to factor safety concerns created by protestors at the University of Pittsburgh and at other universities. ‘Listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.’ As a result, Pitt’s own policy codifies an unconstitutional heckler’s veto that stifles minority viewpoints.”

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Pitt should be modeling this for its students, and a good first step would be to end its unconstitutional policy that threatens to silence minority viewpoints.”

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Calls For Emergency Hearing On Allegations Of Election Fraud In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

Schaumburg, IL - December 7, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL, 8th) of the Oversight Committee issued the following statement in response to the reports of election fraud in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District:

“As credible reports of concerted election fraud emerge from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, it is imperative that Chairman Gowdy call an emergency hearing of the Oversight Committee before the end of this term. The right to vote, and to have that vote fairly counted, is a fundamental, bedrock principle of our democracy. In North Carolina, we have witnessed substantial evidence of an effort to deny that right to seniors and voters of color in order to steal an election. The facts must come to light and if these allegations are proven, they must be answered for and prevented from happening again.”

Bill Johnson Statement on Meeting with Mary Barra

Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Bill Johnson (R-OH, 6th) released the following statement after the Ohio Congressional delegation, including Johnson, met with General Motors CEO Mary Barra:

I asked her directly how GM got into this overcapacity issue after the American taxpayers – the same taxpayers who are now losing their jobs - bailed them out. I also specifically asked Barra why GM can’t put a new product in Lordstown. I think it’s fair to say that over the years they’ve had to make previous plant and assembly line modifications to bring in other product lines - why can’t they do that now. After all, they haven’t been producing the Cruze alone in Lordstown since 1966.

The bottom line is that this isn’t about Mary Barra or a group of politicians. This is about the workers and the families affected by General Motors’ decision, and along with my colleagues, I will keep fighting until GM brings a new product to Lordstown or a new company comes in and takes advantage of the existing facility and highly-skilled workforce.

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Congressmen Hurd, Gonzalez and Senator Cornyn Introduce Legislation to Help Identify Remains of Missing Migrants

Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressmen Will Hurd (TX-23) and Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) joined Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to introduce the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2018, a bill to help local jurisdictions improve the recording and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains found in South Texas.

“Until we address the root causes of mass migration flows from Central America, individuals will continue to make the perilous journey north,” said Hurd, who represents more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress. “This bipartisan bill helps prevent tragic deaths along the border by expanding CBP’s rescue and apprehension capabilities. In addition, it mitigates the burdens placed on state and local governments to identify perished individuals with the dignity they deserve. I am proud to join my fellow Texans Rep. Gonzalez and Sen. Cornyn in providing a solution for this very real challenge faced by law enforcement agencies across my district.”

“Our nation has a chance to put more resources into helping identify the remains of missing persons, and to bring closure to families who know not whether to grieve, or continue the search,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “This piece of legislation would provide much-needed resources directed at finding answers for families across the U.S. Southwest Border. Passing this bill will help our ranchers and farmers, our counties, and our local sheriffs. I thank Congressman Hurd and Senator Cornyn for coming together to craft this bipartisan and bicameral piece of legislation.”

“Our border communities have experienced the very real consequences of the treacherous journey travelled by many seeking to come to this country,” said Sen. Cornyn. “My hope is that this bill will help local communities identify those who have gone missing, process unidentified remains, and invest in forensic equipment to provide closure to families in the United States and abroad.”

The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2018:

  • expands eligibility to apply for grants under Jennifer’s Law to state and local governments, accredited government-funded CODIS forensic laboratories, medical examiners, accredited publicly-funded toxicology, crime, and university forensic anthropology center laboratories, and non-profit organizations that work with state and county forensic offices for entry of data into CODIS of NamUS
    --authorizes use of grant funds to cover costs
    --incurred since FY17 for transportation, processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains
    --of hiring additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odontologists and anthropologists needed to support identification efforts
  • of purchasing state-of-the-art forensic and DNA-typing and analytical equipment
  • adds privacy protections for biological family reference samples uploaded into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) by precluding disclosure of such information to Federal or state law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes
  • expands CBP’s legal authority to purchase and deployment of up to 170 self-powering 9-1-1 cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate migrant deaths on the southern border
  • requires reporting to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National and Missing Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) regarding missing persons and deceased individuals found in each applicant’s jurisdiction
  • adds reporting requirements for the NamUS Program regarding the number of unidentified person cases, anthropology cases, suspected border crossing cases, and associations made
  • adds reporting requirements for CBP and GAO on unidentified remains and use of rescue beacons

    Endorsements: National Criminal Justice Association; South Texans’ Property Rights Association; Texas Border Coalition; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Church World Service; Colibri Center for Human Rights; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces; Franciscan Action Network; Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers); Hope Border Institute; Kino Border Initiative; La Frontera Ministries International, Inc.; Latin America Working Group (LAWG); Leadership Conference of Women Religious; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Institute Justice Team; South Texas Human Rights Center; Southern Border Communities Coalition; Washington Office on Latin America.

  • Hastings Leads Letter to USDA Secretary Purdue Urging Common Sense Reforms to Livestock Indemnity Program

    Washington, D.C. - December 7, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL, 20th), along with Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), and Salud Carbajal (D-CA) sent the following letter to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Sonny Perdue III, urging common sense reforms which promote the humane treatment of farm animals and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars in the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

    A copy of the letter is below:

    December 4, 2018

    The Honorable Sonny Perdue III
    Secretary of Agriculture
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    1400 Independence Avenue S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20250

    Dear Secretary Perdue:

    We believe the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Indemnity Program should implement common sense changes to the information collected from farmers prior to providing reimbursement for animals that have died as a result of adverse weather events.

    The Humane Farming Association informed us that, from 2013 to 2017, USDA’s LIP issued payments of approximately $199 million to farmers and ranchers for animal deaths due primarily to adverse weather events. The total animal deaths included a staggering 277,471 livestock and 6,686,168 poultry. Despite the large amount of taxpayer dollars and animal loss involved, the LIP does not currently ask farmers applying for reimbursement to answer any questions regarding the shelter, care, or treatment provided to animals that died due to adverse weather events. Furthermore, since the cap was removed in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, there is now no limit on the amount of LIP compensation that a qualifying farmer can receive.

    Moreover, the Humane Farming Association informed us that many animals are provided little to no shelter and subjected to prolonged suffering and agonizing deaths that could be preventable if proper weather precautions and disaster management plans were encouraged by the FSA’s LIP. For example, in the summer of 2017 in California’s central valley, thousands of dairy cows died from heat stroke due to a lack of adequate protections from the heat such as sufficient shade, fans, and misters. In the aftermath, three counties in California declared states of emergency, because they were not able to render the dead fast enough.

    When no adequate protection is put in place during adverse weather events, producers are reimbursed for dead livestock at 75 percent of the animals’ market value. We believe this represents a clear disincentive for farmers to take the necessary steps to have a disaster management plan and provide their animals with protections from adverse weather events. Without this compensation, we believe many producers would no doubt make an effort to provide for their animals. Instead, we believe massive numbers of neglected livestock are dying painfully and needlessly while taxpayers foot the bill.

    For these reasons, we believe that producers applying for compensation under LIP be required to provide detailed information regarding the precautionary measures that the producer took to avoid the death of livestock during adverse weather events. We believe LIP applicants should be required to provide direct proof, including but not limited to photos, videos, or records, of preparations made to provide for the well-being of animals in their care during adverse weather events. In addition to the Livestock Death Loss Documentation required by LIP, which requires applicants to document the number and kind of livestock that died, we believe the FSA should require that applicants answer specific questions regarding the preparations that were made to protect animals from death from adverse weather events. These questions could include:

  • What was the producer’s disaster management plan in the case of an adverse weather event?
  • What steps were taken by the producer to keep animals from suffering from or dying as a result of exposure to heat, cold, or other elements?
  • What type of shelter did the producer provide to animals prior to the eligible adverse weather event?
  • What percentage of a producer’s animals did that shelter accommodate?
  • Were transport vehicles available to evacuate the animals out of harm’s way?
  • Were emergency food/water supplies available to accommodate animals that did not have access to normal food/water sources?Was veterinary assistance available to treat or humanely euthanize animals?

    We believe all farm animals deserve to be given an adequate level of humane treatment and care including proper food, water, and shelter. Furthermore, we believe farmers should not be rewarded with taxpayer dollars for not providing these most basic levels of humane treatment. For these reasons, we respectfully request that, if LIP compensation is made available, the FSA should only provide it to those producers who not only put in place adverse weather protections for their livestock, but also document those protections.

    Thank you for your attention to our request and we look forward to your response.


    Alcee L. Hastings
    Member of Congress

    Debbie Wasserman Schultz
    Member of Congress

    Brendan F. Boyle
    Member of Congress

    James P. McGovern
    Member of Congress

    Earl Blumenauer
    Member of Congress

    Donald S. Beyer Jr.
    Member of Congress

    Salud Carbajal
    Member of Congress

    Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.