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Mar 082017
 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, has changed the lives of many previously uninsured Americans who can now find affordable healthcare, either as a result of the programs being offered through the government-run marketplace, or through private insurance plans. The ACA provides income-based premium subsidies to those who purchase their own insurance through the marketplace. The groups who benefit the most from the ACA are those who were previously discriminated against and the most vulnerable of society including low-income families and seniors. At least 20 million more Americans now have health insurance than before passage of Obamacare. Criticisms of the ACA include rising costs for young males, higher numbers of uninsured in states that did not expand Medicare, and increased cost for those who lost their health care benefits from insurers not in compliance with the ACA standards.

Pending legislation: S.191 – Patient Freedom Act of 2017

 Posted by at 8:49 am
Mar 082017
 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, has changed the lives of many previously uninsured Americans who can now find affordable healthcare, either as a result of the programs being offered through the government-run marketplace, or through private insurance plans. The ACA provides income-based premium subsidies to those who purchase their own insurance through the marketplace. The groups who benefit the most from the ACA are those who were previously discriminated against and the most vulnerable of society including low-income families and seniors. At least 20 million more Americans now have health insurance than before passage of Obamacare. Criticisms of the ACA include rising costs for young males, higher numbers of uninsured in states that did not expand Medicare, and increased cost for those who lost their health care benefits from insurers not in compliance with the ACA standards.

Pending legislation: S.191 – Patient Freedom Act of 2017

 Posted by at 8:48 am
Mar 312015
 

Sexual assault, a longtime problem on college and university campuses, has recently become a national issue. Advocates say schools, fearing negative publicity, are not proactive in investigating or prosecuting those responsible for these violent crimes, the vast number of which are not reported to authorities. A recent survey of 440 colleges showed that many schools ignore provisions of Title IX, which requires them to prevent and investigate sexual assaults, and the 1990 Clery Act, which orders colleges to report violent incidents to authorities. Estimates have put the occurrence of campus rape at about one of every five women during their college career. This estimate corroborates a recent finding that 19% of all American women have been raped during their lifetimes. Some advocates say campus rape is so prevalent that schools which do not report this problem are likely avoiding efforts to address it.

A 2012 study found that 55% of 1,570 colleges and universities with 1,000 or more students received at least one report of a forcible sex offense on campus, including forcible rape, forcible sodomy, forcible fondling and sexual assault with an object. In 2012, there were at least 3,900 reports of forcible sex offenses on campuses nationwide. Of the undergraduate women who are sexually assaulted in college, 34% are physically forced, 57% are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 4% are given drugs without their knowledge. Only about 12% of all campus rapes are reported to authorities and only 1% of all assailants are ever disciplined by the school. Even so, about 78% of college presidents polled in one survey disagreed that sexual assault was prevalent on their campus, and 75% of presidents believed their institutions were doing a good job protecting women from sexual assault.

Advocates say the first point of contact is crucial for women who have been sexually assaulted. Some schools require victim advisors to publically report rape cases brought to their attention, which may discourage students from seeking help. Others assign a confidential adviser, who explains the reporting process while ensuring services are made available for her. This approach has helped increase the number of victims who decide to report their abuse to the police. Advocates say colleges need to provide safe and supportive environments where students feel comfortable reporting these crimes.

Pending Legislation:
S.706 – SOS Campus Act
H.R.1310 – Campus Accountability and Safety Act

 Posted by at 2:10 am
Jan 152015
 

After 9/11, our CIA received authority from the Bush administration to engage in extraordinary rendition, or the transfer without due process, of suspected terrorists to the custody of foreign governments for the purpose of interrogation and detention. These detainees were then subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including abuse and torture. Most assumed these techniques consisted of sleep and sensory depravation or overload, and waterboarding -pouring water over the cloth-covered face of a restrained suspect. However it has recently been revealed that our interrogators also held suspects underwater in bathtubs until they nearly died, while doctors stood by to ensure they didn’t. This secret program was conducted in places beyond reach of our laws. For this reason, we still do not know the full extent of participation by still-unidentified foreign governments, or the number of people victimized by our rendition and torture programs. Critics say that although this program held little regard for the rule of domestic or international law, no official has ever been charged with these crimes. Our government has refused to acknowledge its involvement in any specific rendition case but claims only 16 “high value detainees” were sent to overseas jails before finally ending up at Guantanamo. However, experts believe there were at least 136 detainees that were transferred to 54 complicit foreign governments. Advocates claim the time has come for us to definitively repudiate these practices and to prohibit their reoccurrence by law.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.2390 – No Detention without Charge Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current rendition and torture policy and wish to defeat H.R.2390

I support prohibiting the U.S. Armed Forces from authorizing the apprehension or detention of any person except to the extent that is allowed by the Constitution or the law of war; the detention without charge of any person apprehended or detained in the United States or a U.S. territory or possession, except as expressly provided by an Act of Congress, and wish to pass H.R2390

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to bring criminal charges against those responsible for extraordinary rendition and torture

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

In response to 9/11 and our war on terrorism, we passed the USA Patriot Act of 2001 which authorizes the use of wartime procedures to capture and prosecute terrorists. This law reversed many of the restrictions which were imposed on the government after it was caught spying on private citizens and political groups in the 1970s. The patriot Act suspends many of the civil liberties basic to our democracy. It allows the use of military tribunals, racial profiling, and indefinite incarceration without due process or evidence of wrongdoing. It gives federal prosecutors the authority to conduct wiretap and surveillance operations without proof of criminal activity. It also allows law enforcement to seize bank, telephone and e-mail records for counterterrorism investigations without significant oversight. Patriot Act supporters claim that we must choose between these civil liberties and fighting terrorism. Civil libertarians say this law puts at risk the personal freedoms and rights embodied in the Constitution which, in the past, we have gone to war to protect. They claim the Patriot Act is unnecessary because our usual civil procedures are capable of prosecuting terrorists. Contrary to this law’s intent, our Justice Department has used the Patriot Act’s anti-terrorist provisions to pursue defendants for crimes unrelated to terrorism, including drug violations, credit card fraud and bank theft. The NSA has also used the Patriot Act to justify eavesdropping on the private communications of millions of law-abiding Americans. The sunset date for the Patriot Act is June of 2017.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current Patriot Act policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to advance the Patriot Act’s sunset date to 2015

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp, established in 2002, is a military prison located at our Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The stated reason for its existence is to “detain extraordinarily dangerous prisoners, to interrogate prisoners in an optimal setting, and to prosecute prisoners for war crimes.” Most Guantanamo prisoners were captured in Afghanistan and have been detained for more than 12 years without being charged. Some of these inmates are “indefinite detainees” – prisoners considered too dangerous to be released but, due to insufficient evidence, cannot be tried in court. Advocates and former prisoners have accused our military of human rights abuses by subjecting these detainees to torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution. At least 6 Guantanamo detainees are reported to have committed suicide and 9 others have reportedly died in custody, but defense lawyers contend these numbers are understated. Prisoners have conducted several hunger strikes which have resulted in camp guards force-feeding detainees. President Obama campaigned on a promise to close this facility but Congress has prevented him from locking these prisoners up in stateside federal prisons or sending them abroad. There are now 143 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay even though 73 of these men were cleared for release years ago. The remaining 70 detainees are awaiting Congressional approval for transfer to stateside federal penitentiaries. Those opposed to releases say these prisoners should stay behind bars until we can assure they will not return to the battlefield. One recent study confirmed that 107 of 620 detainees released from Guantanamo, or 17%, had returned to terrorism as of last July, and another 77, or 12%, are suspected of having done so. Those opposed to this facility say Guantanamo Bay has been a shameful failure since it opened. They claim indefinitely incarcerating those who have not been charged or tried violates everything we’re fighting for and everything we stand for as a nation.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current Guantanamo policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; conduct detainee trials; relocate those found to be guilty to stateside federal correctional facilities; parole those who are found to be eligible; and repatriate those not tried

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Well over 100 million people perished in wars during the 20th century. The end of the Cold War gave many people hope that a new era of lasting peace was at hand. However, our world remains the venue for countless regional conflicts resulting from disputes over territory, resources, religion, culture and more. Currently, our country is the most powerful and influential nation on Earth, affecting many people in most parts of the globe. America provides food and medicine to many millions of people in nearly 100 needy countries. We help resolve conflicts between nations and pioneer most of the world’s medical and scientific advancements which benefit all humanity. However, some advocates claim we are not fully aware of the effects our corporate and foreign policies have on the people of other nations. They claim some of these effects are responsible for anti-American feelings in parts of the world. They say, at times, while “developing” the resources of other countries, our corporations have harmed their people and damaged their environments. At times, our government has supported repressive or non-representative regimes, and has used military force without adequate justification and before exhausting diplomatic options. Advocates say we should consider those affected by all our corporate and foreign policies if we are to help bring about a new era of lasting peace. They claim we need a new cabinet-level voice in our executive branch who will advocate for a more peaceful approach to attaining foreign policy objectives. The purpose of this department, which would have input on foreign as well as domestic policy decisions, would be to study and promote the conditions that are conducive to building domestic and international peace.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.808 – Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current peace policy and wish to defeat H.R.808

I support establishing a Department of Peacebuilding with the mission to cultivate peace as a national policy objective; develop policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, and structured conflict mediation. Establishing in the Department: the Office of Peace Education and Training; the Office of Domestic Peace Activities; the Office of International Peace Activities; the Office of Technology for Peace; the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament; the Office of Peacebuilding Information and Research; the Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights; and the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace; directing the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to consult with the Secretary of Peacebuilding concerning nonviolent means of conflict resolution when a conflict between the United States and any other government or entity is imminent or occurring, and wish to pass H.R.808

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The security measures we took after 9/11 helped prevent another such tragedy. However, the threat of nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological weapon attack still exists. Some of these weapons, such as anthrax and sarin are relatively difficult to deploy. This is because these agents must remain in high-enough concentrations to be harmful even after being dispersed in air or water -unless they are used in confined spaces. Security experts are more worried about portable nuclear weapons or radioactive material being detonated by conventional explosives, producing a “dirty bomb.” It is possible a dirty bomb may not kill many people but it could disrupt and contaminate a large area. Improved radioactivity monitoring at our ports has reduced the risk of nuclear devices being smuggled into our country. Many nations have taken steps to prevent the theft of radiological material. We have also had some success securing this surplus material from other nations. Analysts claim these are the reasons we haven’t yet been attacked by terrorists using nuclear or radiological devices. However, there still remains much of this material worldwide and terrorists are actively trying to acquire it. Security analysts say gathering information on terrorists and sharing it between law enforcement agencies is one of our best tools for thwarting terrorist plots. There have been times when this tool has not been employed, most notably in the months before 9/11 when critical information about the hijackers was not shared between law enforcement agencies. This blunder was blamed on inter-agency rivals and suspicions. Some say our FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and its fusion centers have created a new and different culture which shows a willingness to share information amongst agencies and across all levels of government.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1542 – WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current terrorism intelligence policy and wish to defeat H.R.1542

I support requiring the Dept. of Homeland Security to: support homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of terrorist actors, their claims, and their plans to conduct attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials against the nation and of global infectious disease, public health, food, agricultural, and veterinary issues; support homeland security-focused risk analysis and risk assessments of such homeland security hazards by providing relevant quantitative and nonquantitative threat information; leverage homeland security intelligence capabilities and structures to enhance prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts with respect to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack; share information and provide tailored analytical support on these threats to state, local, and tribal authorities as well as other national biosecurity and biodefense stakeholders, and wish to pass H.R.

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

A major natural disaster may as terrifying as a terrorist attack. There have always been hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes, floods, wildfires and droughts, but it seems the frequency and intensity of these events are increasing. Since 2011, China, the United States, the Philippines, India and Indonesia have been the top 5 countries most frequently hit by natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2010, our 10 costliest natural disasters were responsible for more than 12,000 deaths and $500 billion in damages. Since 1980, there have been 144 of these billion-dollar events with total damages exceeding $1 trillion. Hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of 1,833 New Orleans natives in 2005. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the 1994 Northridge earthquake killed 65 and 57 people respectively. In 2008, Hurricane Ike claimed 112 lives in Texas. The devastating 2011 Hackleburg, Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes all occurred within 5 weeks of each other. These EF4, 200 mph twisters, took the lives 233 Americans and caused more than $6 billion in damage. Likewise, the EF4 tornado that hit Oklahoma City, Moore and Newcastle in 2013 flattened an elementary school and killed 90 people including 20 children. This devastating tornado was nearly a mile wide and was in contact with the ground for at least 40 minutes. The 1980 volcanic explosion of Mt St. Helens killed 57 people. Hurricane Sandy, which hit New Jersey’s shoreline in 2012, took the lives of 286 Americans. In 2012, we experienced 11 natural disasters that each caused at least $1 billion in damage, and 2013 brought 7 more. Scientists predict climate change will increase both the frequency and intensity of these events, and soaring property insurance premiums seem to be confirming this prediction.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.549 – Homeowner Catastrophe Protection Act of 2013

H.R.1669 – Public Housing Disaster Preparedness Act of 2013

H.R.390 – National Emergency Centers Establishment Act

I oppose reforming current disaster aid policy and wish to defeat H.R.549, H.R.1669 and H.R.390

I support providing tax incentives for homeowners and insurance companies to allow them to better prepare for and respond to future natural disasters by: allowing insurance companies to make tax deductible contributions to a tax-exempt policyholder disaster protection fund for the payment of policyholders’ claims arising from catastrophic natural disasters; establishing a tax-exempt Catastrophe Savings Account to help taxpayers pay for catastrophe expenses; allowing a tax credit for 25% of natural disaster mitigation property expenditures made to fortify a taxpayer’s home against catastrophes, and wish to pass H.R.549

I support requiring public housing projects to develop disaster response and relief plans that include: immediate disaster response; protecting the special needs of residents; safe evacuation of residents and staff; supporting short- and long-term relocation of residents; temporarily renting vacant units to local victims of a disaster who are not residents of public housing; prohibiting authorities from evicting residents (with certain exceptions) during a disaster period; protecting and restoring public housing building; listing the condition and location of emergency supplies and equipment; providing information regarding federal, state, and local grant and loan programs including information regarding the insurance policy of the covered PHA and how to file a claim; implementing certain emergency disaster training, and wish to pass H.R.1669

I support establishing at least 6 national emergency centers on military installations to use existing infrastructure to provide: temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster; centralized locations for the training of first responders and the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts; listing minimum requirements for sites for such centers, including that they be capable of: meeting for an extended period the housing, health, transportation, education, public works, humanitarian, and other transition needs of a large number of individuals affected; being scaled up or down to accommodate major disaster preparedness and response drills, operations, and procedures; housing existing permanent structures necessary to meet training and first responders coordination requirements during non-disaster periods; and hosting the infrastructure necessary to rapidly adjust to temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance needs, and wish to pass H.R.390

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

There are more than 160,000 public water systems which provide safe and clean water to 317 million Americans. Disruption of these systems would likely bring the affected areas to a standstill, causing severe risks to health and safety as well as significant economic loss. For this reason, our federal government provides some protection for these facilities. Since 9/11, the EPA has been developing new security technologies to detect and monitor water contaminants. Law enforcement has been working on preventing security breaches at the reservoirs and watersheds which supply our water systems. Security advocates say that if contaminants can be detected early enough, they can be prevented from reaching consumers. If not, our water treatment plants must be able to quickly communicate warnings to their customers. Besides intentional releases, our water supplies can also be contaminated by naturally occurring chemicals and minerals such as radon, uranium and arsenic. Contamination from urban, factory and farm pollution are threats as well. However, advocates are most worried that our water systems may be vulnerable to sabotage. A while ago, the FBI arrested a Tunisian man who had plans to derail a Canadian train, and also had plans to kill 100,000 Americans by poisoning our air or water. Around the same time, Boston police arrested 5 men from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore who were discovered trespassing one night at Quabbin Reservoir, the main source of water for Massachusetts. These men had recently graduated with degrees in chemical engineering but were released after police found no wrongdoing except trespassing. Although these incidents did not pose an imminent threat, they may indicate that those who wish us harm are aware of the vulnerability of our water systems.

Pending Legislation:

S.67 – Secure Water Facilities Act

I oppose reforming current bioterrorism preparedness and wish to defeat S.67

I support establishing increasingly stringent, risk-based performance standards for the security of most water systems; requiring deadlines for systems to conduct and update assessments, develop and revise security plans and emergency response plans, and provide training to system and contractor employees; designating any chemical substance as a substance of concern and establishing the threshold quantity for the release or theft of each such substance; providing baseline information to water systems regarding the types of intentional acts that constitute probable threats; directing systems that possess substances of concern in excess of the release threshold quantity to include in their site security plans assessments of methods to reduce the consequences of chemical releases from intentional acts; providing grants to assist states and systems in complying with this Act and to provide for security-related training of water system employees and training for emergency response providers; authorizing appropriations for 2013-2017, and wish to pass S.67

 Posted by at 12:00 am