Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Government Agencies Encouraging New Voting Systems with a Paper Record Nationwide

by: Pennsylvania Department of State

Harrisburg, PA - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Pennsylvania counties continue to make great progress transitioning to more secure and accessible voting systems with paper records that voters can verify before casting their ballot.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and many security experts, are calling on Pennsylvania and other states to have voting systems with a paper trail by the 2020 presidential election.

Already 19 counties, or 28 percent, have taken official action toward acquiring new voting systems, either through a vote to purchase or lease a system, or a vote to approve funding. The counties are Beaver, Berks, Bradford, Butler, Centre, Clinton, Crawford, Greene, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mercer, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Susquehanna, Venango and Westmoreland. Almost 80% of counties report they have received, selected or are in the process of selecting new voting systems.

An estimated 52 counties have already reported plans to implement the new systems as follows:

  • Eight to 10 counties expect to use new voting systems for the May 2019 primary.
  • An additional 32 counties are working to implement new systems for the November 2019 election.
  • About 11 counties expect to deploy for the April 2020 primary.
  • 15 counties remain undecided about their deployment date.

  • "We are very pleased that more than a quarter of the commonwealth's counties have already taken steps to acquire their new voting systems, and more than three-quarters have plans to implement their new systems," Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. "County officials continue to demonstrate how committed they are to acquiring voting systems that best meet their voters' needs and provide the most secure, auditable and accessible voting systems to all Pennsylvanians."

    In April 2018, the Department of State informed counties they must select new voting systems that provide a paper record, meet 21st-century standards of security and accessibility, and can be more thoroughly audited than current systems allow. Counties must choose their new voting systems by Dec. 31, 2019, and implement them no later than the 2020 primary election.

    In Pennsylvania, every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can read to verify their choices before casting their ballot. Election officials will also use the plain text to perform pre-election testing and post-election audits and recounts.

    Governor Wolf has proposed a minimum of $15 million in state funding each year for the next five years, for a combined total of at least $75 million to assist counties in acquiring the new systems.

    The governor has already committed $14.15 million in federal and state funding to counties for new voting systems.

    The Department of State will continue to pursue more federal assistance and other funding sources to assist counties in paying for their new voting systems.

    The department also has provided a statewide purchasing contract that counties can use to negotiate their best deal, while including specifics that will best meet their needs. Bids from five vendors have been approved under the contract.

    Under the Pennsylvania Election Code, every county must employ voting systems that are certified by both the federal Election Assistance Commission and the secretary of the commonwealth. Four new voting systems are certified under the state's new security and accessibility standards. A fifth voting system has successfully completed state and federal testing and official certification will be released shortly. A sixth system is nearing the conclusion of its certification testing.

    Misinformed Children Skip School to Protest for 'Climate Change' Agenda, States Physicians for Civil Defense

    by: Physicians for Civil Defense

    Tucson, AZ - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On March 15, an estimated 1.4 million schoolchildren in 123 countries skipped school to protest governments' failure to drastically cut back on the use of carbon-based fuels. They believe they have no future because of imminent climatic disaster caused by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

    The figurehead leader of the Fridays for Future "strike" movement is Greta Thunberg, who reportedly started the movement at age 15. She was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential teens of 2018. Her appealing image is a lucrative money-maker for Swedish entrepreneur Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of We Don't Have Time, who claims to have discovered her.

    "It is not surprising that so many schoolchildren are terrified about their future," states Physicians for Civil Defense president Jane Orient, M.D. "They are immersed in groupthink and apocalyptic environmentalist scenarios in school. Major news outlets censor opposing views about climate science."

    A helpful antidote might be the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Climate Change IQ Test, she suggested.

    "Children's Crusades have long exploited passionate but uninformed young persons to promote a movement," Dr. Orient noted.

    "The policies the marchers are advocating would have a negligible if any effect on climate. But cutting off the fuels that power 80 percent of the world's economy would cause abject poverty and mass death, especially in the world's poorest nations."

    According to EIKE (Europäisches Institut für Klima & Energie—European Institute for Climate and Energy), the projections of UN climate models have been consistently wrong, but the UN is using the climate-change apocalypse as a tool (Werkzeug) to bring about global economic transformation. "The goal is a socialist, global energy-rationing regime," explained Dr. Orient.

    Physicians for Civil Defense distributes information to help to save lives in the event of war or other disaster.

    Dream and Promise Act Introduced in the House of Representatives of theUnited States

    by: Embassy of The Republic of Haiti

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the House Democrats introduced the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for over fifty-thousand (50,000) Haitian nationals who are Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, millions of Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients. H.R.6 was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Rep. Yvette Clark, and other House Democrats.

    If the legislation passes, TPS holders could immediately apply for a green card. This bill only applies to petitioners who have been in the country for at least three years, had status as of September 2016, and can successfully pass a background check. In addition, within five (5) years of obtaining a green card, all three groups could apply for citizenship.

    However, immigrants who have been convicted of crimes punishable by more than one (1) year in prison, or have been convicted of three or more offenses that carry sentences of more than 90 days in jail, would not be eligible.

    Former Defense Intelligence Officer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Espionage

    by: U.S Department of Justice

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, a resident of Syracuse, Utah, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, pleaded guilty today in the District of Utah in connection with his attempted transmission of national defense information to the People’s Republic of China. Sentencing is set for Sept. 24, 2019.

    Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah and Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office announced the charges.

    Hansen retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian. DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. Hansen held a Top Secret clearance for many years, and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at DIA and as a government contractor.

    As Hansen admitted in the plea agreement, in early 2014, agents of a Chinese intelligence service targeted Hansen for recruitment and he began meeting with them regularly in China. During those meetings, the Chinese agents described to Hansen the type of information that would interest the Chinese intelligence service. During the course of his relationship with the agents of the Chinese intelligence service, Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information he provided them, including information he gathered at various industry conferences. Between May 24, 2016 and June 2, 2018, Hansen solicited from an intelligence case officer working for the DIA national defense information that Hansen knew the Chinese intelligence service would find valuable. Hansen agreed to act as a conduit to sell that information to the Chinese. Hansen advised the DIA case officer how to record and transmit classified information without detection, and explained how to hide and launder any funds received as payment for classified information. The DIA case officer reported Hansen’s conduct to the DIA and subsequently acted as a confidential human source for the FBI.

    As Hansen further admitted in the plea agreement, Hansen met with the DIA case officer on June 2, 2018, and received from that individual documents containing national defense information that Hansen previously solicited. The documents Hansen received were classified. The information in the documents related to the national defense of the United States in that it related to United States military readiness in a particular region and was closely held by the United States government. Hansen reviewed the documents, queried the DIA case officer about their contents, and took written notes about the materials relating to the national defense information. Hansen advised the DIA case officer that he would remember most of the details about the documents he received that day and would conceal some notes about the material in the text of an electronic document that Hansen would prepare at the airport before leaving for China. Hansen intended to provide the information he received to the agents of the Chinese intelligence service with whom he had been meeting, and Hansen knew that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.

    Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. The plea agreement calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 15 years.

    Special agents of the FBI, IRS, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Counterintelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency were involved in the investigation.

    The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Lund, Karin Fojtik, Mark K. Vincent and Alicia Cook of the District of Utah, and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy, Matthew J. McKenzie and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington assisted with this case.

    President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Fortifies DHS Operations, Supports Frontline Personnel, Secures Our Borders & Confronts Emerging Threats Release Date: March 18, 2019

    by: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the details of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget request to Congress for DHS and its component agencies and offices. The DHS request includes $51.7 billion in discretionary funding and an additional $19.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). The Budget request provides critical resources to help our frontline personnel do their jobs to secure the homeland against all threats and hazards, and it ensures DHS is able to defend Americans against emerging dangers.

    “The American people and our law enforcement personnel rightfully demand effective border security as supported by the White House budget—building the wall and giving the men and women of DHS the support, tools, and resources they need to safeguard our territory,” said Secretary Nielsen. “This year’s request also delivers landmark investments to protect America and our way of life—including by combating terrorism and homeland threats, defending our nation’s networks and critical infrastructure, facilitating and securing legal trade and travel, and so much more.”

    Border & Maritime Security
    To address the unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis at the Southwest Border, the FY 2020 budget requests $5.0 billion for the construction of approximately 200 miles of a new border wall system and over $232 million to equip our law enforcement personnel with the latest in surveillance technology. Further, over $80 million is requested to provide migrant care including medical services, general consumables and transportation. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding request includes 54,000 beds to address immigration enforcement. DHS continues to support its law enforcement men and women in uniform by requesting over 1,000 combined Border Patrol Agents and Customs and Border Protection Officers, and over 1,660 ICE law enforcement and support staff. In continued commitment to safeguarding our Nation’s ports and waterways while enforcing the law on the high seas, the Department has requested $1.2 billion in funds for recapitalization of U.S Coast Guard resources.

    Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security

    In an age of pandemic malware and network instructions, the Budget requests $1.3 billion for programs such as Federal Network Protection, Proactive Cyber Protection, and Infrastructure Security, which will allow DHS to safeguard the federal government’s civilian information technology systems against cybersecurity risks. It also supports the maturation of the Department’s new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

    Transportation Security
    The FY 2020 Budget goes further to invest in the security of the traveling public. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) continues to experience airline passenger volume growth at airport checkpoints nationwide. The funding request for TSA supports an additional 700 Transportation Security Officers (TSO) contributing to a total of more than 46,600 TSOs, the highest level in history. Additionally, $221 million is requested for new equipment to effectively detect smaller and more artfully concealed threats within checked or carry-on bags in response to an evolving threat landscape.

    Emergency Management & Recovery
    In keeping with a policy of “Relentless Resilience,” the Budget proposes crucial resources to enhance the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A funding request of $28.5 billion, which includes $19.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, ensures FEMA continues to provide the requisite support to disaster survivors by increasing their capacity to take effective and practical steps to help themselves, their families, and their communities. And it funds FEMA’s transformation into a more responsive agency focused on helping Americans better prepare for the worst.

    USDA Announces Investments in Rural Community Facilities that will Benefit Nearly 300,000 Americans

    by: U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $91 million to build or improve community facilities (PDF, 108 KB) and essential services for nearly 300,000 rural residents in 12 states.

    “Modern community facilities are key drivers of economic development,” Baxley said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building and maintaining these institutions that are foundational to quality of life and prosperity.”

    USDA is funding 16 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The funding helps rural small towns, cities and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as public schools, libraries, courthouses, public safety facilities, hospitals, colleges and day care centers. For example:

  • In North Carolina, the town of Spencer will use a $2.5 million loan to renovate a vacant building into space for a new town hall and the police department. This project will benefit 3,267 residents.
  • Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., will use a $14.5 million loan to construct a facility to house the university’s business and community offices. Currently, the business department uses basement space in another building. The new building will be called the Center for Business and Innovation. This project will serve the rural community’s 15,250 residents.
  • In Texas, the Coleman County Medical Center District will receive a $13.6 million loan to upgrade the hospital to better serve the 8,895 residents in the county and surrounding communities. The funds will be used to renovate the cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy and emergency departments. This investment will enhance the hospital’s ability to deliver quality health care and attract and retain physicians and other professional staff.

  • The projects announced are located in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

    More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Applicants and projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

    To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

    USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

    Action Alert: Support #FreeToBelieve Act to Protect Texans' Religious Freedom

    Support #FreeToBelieve Act to Protect Texans' Religious Freedom
    by: Texas Values
    March 4, 2019
    Throughout this Legislative Session, we have continually educated Texans on dangerous bills that seek to override religious freedom. These #BanTheBible “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) bills have been filed by Democrats. Despite an overwhelming response of over 40,000 messages to elected officials across Texas, we continue to see more of these aggressive bills. Recently, 2 new bills were introduced attacking our freedom to believe in biblical values.

    We know that in light of these increased attacks on biblical values at the Texas Legislature and in local governments across Texas, the legislature must act this session to protect religious freedom for all Texans. Understanding this, we are excited that Faith & Family Champion, Rep. Bill Zedler (R), has introduced The Free to Believe Act, HB 1035.

    The #FreeToBelieve Act ensures the government cannot punish individual Texans, religious groups, businesses, counselors, medical providers, wedding vendors, or state employees for their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. Believing the Bible and living out your faith should never get you fined, jailed, or in any other way punished.


    Congressional Resolution Calls on U.S. Government to Address Violence Against Children Globally

    by: Save the Children

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Ending Violence Against Children Taskforce applauds Sens. Boozman and Cardin and Reps. McGovern and Wilson for introducing Sen. Res. 112 and its companion H. Res. 230 yesterday. Written with input by the Taskforce, which includes ChildFund International, Futures Without Violence, Save the Children, UNICEF USA and World Vision, the resolution condemns all forms of violence against children and youth while encouraging the development of a strategy for preventing, addressing and ending violence against children and youth globally.

    The resolution is part of a multi-year advocacy effort led by the Ending Violence Against Children Taskforce, a group of international non-governmental organizations committed to addressing the global prevalence of physical and emotional violence. Continued engagement by the Taskforce organizations with members of Congress galvanized the support and ultimate introduction of the resolution.

    According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion children worldwide are exposed to violence in their homes, schools and other places that are presumed to be safe. Violence, when unaddressed, damages children’s learning, behavior and health across a lifetime. Violence against children undermines our development efforts around the globe. In schools, 246 million boys and girls experience gender-based violence, with girls at a higher risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation. School-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to ensuring girls’ access to basic education. Around the world, nearly one in three adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 suffered from the effects of violence.

    The Ending Violence Against Children resolution also calls on Congress to recognize the economic consequences of violence against children and youth. The global economic impact of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children may be as high as $7 trillion, or 8 percent of the world’s GDP.

    “The outcomes the United States hopes to achieve with our global economic development initiatives will struggle to fully take hold in countries where violence against children goes unaddressed,” said Sen. John Boozman, a lead sponsor of the resolution. “Horrific acts like human trafficking and child labor have tragic lifelong consequences for individual children and devastate entire communities. This bipartisan resolution sends a strong message that a plan to end violence against children must be a priority in our global development strategy."

    Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, also a lead cosponsor of the resolution, echoed the gravity of the issue, stating, “Millions of children around the world have lost their childhoods to physical, sexual and mental violence and abuse. As adults, it is our responsibility to keep them safe and prevent the types of inhumane treatment and developmental roadblocks found in far too many corners of the world. This is a local issue and a global one. I am proud to stand with Sen. Boozman to lead the call for the U.S. government to develop and implement a strategy to address the widespread dangers being faced by children and youth that is in line with international standards and sustainable development goals.”

    The World Health Organization, along with the Centers for Disease Control, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, UNICEF and others have developed INSPIRE, a package of evidence-based interventions to reduce rates of violence against children. The coordinated approach adopts common metrics and indicators that can be used by U.S. government agencies to prevent, address and end violence against children and youth globally.

    “Now is the time for Congress to lead on the important issue of eliminating violence against children,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a lead sponsor of the resolution in the House. “As more families flee their home countries to escape violence, we must take up the commonsense actions laid out in this bipartisan resolution to protect as many children as possible.”

    Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina joined Rep. McGovern in leading this effort, adding, “This important bipartisan resolution sends a clear message across the world: Congress cares about the plight of millions of children exposed to violence. Our moral duty requires us to be the advocates for those whose lives are forever affected by the tragic consequences of violence. We must do everything in our power to increase our commitment to ensuring that all children can live in a safe environment, without having to endure violence in any form. I am grateful to work with Congressman Jim McGovern on this critical issue."

    Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.