Friday, March 6, 2020

Amendment to Address Mental Health, Suicide Issues with Law Enforcement Passed

Washington, D.C. -March 6, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- The House of Representatives unanimously passed an amendment to H.R. 1140, the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. The amendment would address widely reported mental health and violence issues by Federal Air Marshals by ensuring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) works with the Federal Air Marshal Service to provide solutions.

Congressman Kim’s speech in support of this amendment can be found by clicking here.

“Our law enforcement officers who work every day to keep thousands of airline passengers and crew safe are in a state of emergency, and it’s up to us to find solutions,” said Congressman Kim. “This amendment will give our Federal Air Marshals the help they need at this critical time. The cost of inaction is too high. It’s time for us to work together to save lives and honor the work these men and women do every day.”

The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act would strengthen the security operations of the TSA by providing TSA officers additional workplace rights and protections. The bill has been endorsed by the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the American Federation of Government of Employees (AFGE).

Congressman Seeks to Protect Journalists Who Endanger our Country by Publishing Classified Information

Washington, D.C. -March 6, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA, 17th) introduced legislation to amend the Espionage Act of 1917 to better protect journalists and whistleblowers, which he says is under attack in the modern era. Rep. Khanna’s legislation says First Amendment protections for journalists who publish classified information should be in effect, in addition to ensuring whistleblowers can safely come forward to report waste, fraud and abuse to Congress. Senator Ron Wyden (OR) will introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

“The Espionage Act was written over 100 years ago to protect our country against spies, not journalists,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, who obviously doesn't understand that publishing classified information is giving away secrets that are kept for the protection of the American People -- which commits the same crime that spying does. “The Trump Administration has manipulated it to crack down on reporters," he said. As well Trump should. He goes on to say, "My bill with Senator Wyden will protect journalists from being prosecuted under the Espionage Act and make it easier for members of Congress, as well as federal agencies, to conduct proper oversight over any privacy abuses. Our nation’s strength rests on the freedom of the press, transparency, and a functioning system of checks and balances. This bill is a step toward ensuring those same principles apply to intelligence gathering and surveillance operations.”

“As the son of an investigative reporter I believe it is un-American to prosecute journalists for what they write – especially when it comes to how the government may be weaponizing the intelligence agencies for political gain,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (OR). “The Espionage Act currently provides sweeping powers for a rogue attorney general like Bill Barr or unscrupulous president like Donald Trump to target journalists and whistleblowers who reveal information they’d rather keep secret. This bill ensures only personnel with security clearances can be prosecuted for improperly revealing classified information.”

Weaponizing the intelligence agencies for political gain? It seems to me that Americans SHOULD vote for someone who wants to keep top secret information out of the wrong hands, which CANNOT be accomplished if a journalist tells the whole world what that secret is! We do NOT need enemy countries to know our every move!

The Espionage Act Reform Act Ensures:

  • Journalists who solicit, obtain, or publish government secrets are safe from prosecution.
  • Every member of Congress is equally able to receive classified information, specifically from whistleblowers. Current law criminalizes the disclosure of classified information related to signals intelligence to any member of Congress, unless it is in response to a “lawful demand” from a committee. This change puts members in the minority party and those not chairing any committee at a significant disadvantage toward conducting effective oversight.
  • Federal courts, inspector generals, the FCC, Federal Trade Commission, and Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board can conduct oversight into privacy abuses.
  • Cybersecurity experts who discover classified government backdoors in encryption algorithms and communications apps used by the public can publish their research without the risk of criminal penalties. The bill correctly places the burden on governments to hide their surveillance backdoors; academic researchers and other experts should not face legal risks for discovering them.

    You can read the full bill text here.

    So, basically, what this bill does is says that the government has NO right to keep information from our enemies.

  • Leaders Urge Common Sense Approach to Corona Virus

    Washington, D.C. -March 6, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH, 9th), senior Member of the House Appropriations Committee, voted in support of H.R. 6074, an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to address the coronavirus outbreak:

    “For weeks, Americans in every corner of the country have felt a great sense of concern regarding the new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19,” said Rep. Kaptur. “The reports coming out of China, Italy, and now even some of our own communities are alarming. My heart goes out to the families of Americans and people around the world who have lost loved ones or seen their lives turned upside down since the discovery of the virus.”

    “It is evident that COVID-19 is not just a common flu, but something that requires a measured, coordinated, and whole of government response. I have found the mixed, and at times even competing, messages coming out of the Administration, specifically the White House, to be deeply problematic.

    “We can right the course if we work together. Today, I joined my House colleagues in voting to pass bipartisan legislation approving $8.3 billion in emergency funding, including $950 million for state and local health departments, to respond to COVID-19 and save lives.

    “Our government’s ability to research and develop breakthrough cures and respond to community outbreaks is second to none. That’s why this legislation includes robust funding to equip our forces at the center of the interagency effort, including CDC, NIH, and BARDA, with the necessary funds to successfully combat coronavirus on our shores. What’s more, it is critical that cost not be a prohibitor for Americans seeking testing or treatment for COVID-19.

    “Emergency preparedness during a public health threat is paramount. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of panic. I urge the public to take commonsense precautions to prevent infection: wash your hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you are sick, and avoid touching your face. We can all do our part to strengthen public health.

    “I urge swift, bipartisan action in the Senate.”

    U.S. Representative John Katko (R-NY, 24th) spoke to his constituents along similiar lines: “I urge all Central New Yorkers to take preventative measures to limit the spread of disease. I will remain engaged on this issue and will continue my work in Congress to promote the public health and safety of families in Central New York.”

    The $8.3 billion emergency supplemental is entirely new funding—not funding stolen from other critical public health priorities—to combat the coronavirus, including:

  • More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics;
  • $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, $950 million of which is to support state & local health agencies;
  • Nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity;
  • $61 million to facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines, and to help mitigate potential supply chain interruptions;

  • $1.25 billion to address the coronavirus abroad to help keep Americans safe here at home;

    Allows for an estimated $7 billion in low-interest loans to affected small businesses, to help cushion the economic blow of this public health emergency;
  • Provides $300 million so the government can purchase vaccines at a fair and reasonable price;
  • Allows seniors to access telemedicine services for coronavirus treatment;
  • Requires the Trump administration to reimburse health accounts that were previously raided to pay for the coronavirus response;
  • Ensures state and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response.

  • Last week, the Trump Administration requested $2.5 billion to combat the coronavirus. However, health experts said that more resources are needed to combat the growing health epidemic. Additionally, $1.25 billion of the administration’s proposal would be transferred from funding already allocated to fighting other infectious diseases, including Ebola virus, as well as stealing money from the National Cancer Institute and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

    The CDC has produced a fact sheet with frequently asked questions about the coronavirus here.

    A summary of the package is available here.

    $7.8 Billion Coronavirus Response Legislation Passed

    Washington, D.C. - March 6, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued a statement after the Senate approved a bipartisan emergency funding bill to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) on a 96-1 vote:

    “We are pleased that Congress quickly passed this important coronavirus response package on a bipartisan basis, and with sufficient funding to meet the threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. While the Trump Administration's initial $1.25 billion request fell far short of what state and federal agencies need to combat the spread of coronavirus, this $7.8 billion package will immediately direct needed resources to Virginia and other states – including funding for diagnostic testing, vaccine development, and additional resources for state and local responders who are on the front lines of a potential pandemic,” said the Senators. “This legislation is about making sure costs don't get in the way of a strong response to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Once it is signed into law, the Commonwealth will immediately receive $13.3 million in federal funding to help cover the costs of preparations for this public health emergency.”

    “With the President's signature, state and local agencies in Virginia will be able to apply for further federal funds to reimburse for the costs of detecting, tracking and controlling the spread of the virus. While Virginia is fortunate that we have not experienced an outbreak, this bill sets aside $350 million that will be available to local authorities if our region does get hit. It also provides $500 million for masks, medication, protective equipment, and other much-needed medical supplies that can be distributed directly to hospitals and local health care providers. We are committed to working with federal, state and local health officials to make sure the Commonwealth is getting the federal support it needs to prepare for coronavirus, and we encourage all Virginians to follow the guidance of public health professionals to protect against its spread,” concluded the Senators.

    The legislation also includes language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which reduces restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.

    Earlier today, the Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the leadership of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce encouraging the organization's member businesses to commit that workers will not be penalized for following recommended health procedures to protect the public from further spread of the coronavirus. Sen. Warner also led a group of 14 Senators in urging major U.S. employers to make the same commitment.

    In a letter sent yesterday, the Senators urged health insurers and federal and state officials to eliminate cost burdens that could disincentivize people with coronavirus symptoms from seeking testing and treatment for the contagious illness. In a separate letter, the Senators called on the Trump Administration to end efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act that could jeopardize America's coronavirus response.

    These letters represent the latest in a series of efforts by the Senators to push for a robust response to the threat of coronavirus. In January, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the Administration to redirect available public health funds to combat the virus and to inform Congress of any additional resources needed to respond to the coronavirus. Earlier this week, in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence – who has been tasked with coordinating the federal government’s coronavirus response – Sen. Warner expressed concern over how the U.S. government has mobilized to combat the outbreak of coronavirus and urged the Vice President to devote the resources, expertise, and manpower needed to prevent this virus from spreading while also improving the government’s communication with Congress and the American public. This week, Sen. Kaine joined letters calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to provide details on their Departments’ plans for preparedness and response efforts to protect the safety and health of students, teachers, school staff, and workers in light of the emerging threat of the novel coronavirus.

    The House of Representatives passed this coronavirus response package Wednesday by a 415-2 vote. With Senate approval, the bill now heads to the President's desk, and President Trump has announced he intends to sign it into law.