Op-Eds

By: Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Ted Poe

Earlier this year, U.S. Marshals announced the arrest of Rosain Moreno, a 27-year-old Pennsylvania man, who allegedly convinced a 13-year-old girl to run away from her parents and travel with him to South Carolina. Once the child was reported missing, police asked the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force to get involved. Fortunately, they acted quickly, locating and arresting Moreno in South Carolina and bringing the young girl home safely.

Days before Moreno's arrest, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons met in Washington. Eleven human trafficking survivors were introduced as members of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. The council was created in accordance with the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation we introduced and President Obama signed into law last year. These survivors all have different stories, but they have all lived the nightmare of human slavery. The Council will convene to make policy recommendations on how to continue the fight against this despicable scourge in our nation.

This year, instead of calling for new legislation, we are marking the impactful changes in federal law to combat human trafficking. While we have already seen positive outcomes in the first eight months of this law, the work is just beginning in the fight against 21st-century slavery in this nation.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act includes a wide variety of reforms that help victims get the shelter and services they need and provide them with a fresh start. Importantly, it ensures that those sold into the marketplace of sex slavery are treated as victims rather than criminals. The law also strengthens law enforcement tools to target the predators who purchase trafficked human beings.

As former judges, we strongly believe in not only punishing the people who commit these horrendous crimes but also in helping victims rebuild their lives. And as fathers, we refuse to sit back while children are being bought and sold in our own country. That's why we authored the act — to provide law enforcement with new tools to apprehend those who commit these heinous acts and to provide resources for the survivors to restore their lives. We are proud that this bipartisan bill is now the law of the land.

We don’t know what the fate of this young girl would have been had the authorities not rescued her. But we do know that because of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, and the increased authority given to the U.S. Marshal Service, that child is home today, safe and sound.

FOX NEWS

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

South Korean intelligence officials reported recently that North Korea is preparing for a new nuclear test. If true, it would mark Pyongyang’s third nuclear detonation since 2007, when it agreed to end its nuclear program during the Six-Party Talks. In return for this commitment, the United States removed Pyongyang from the state sponsors of terrorism list.

Since then, North Korea has torn up the agreement and resumed its reckless nuclear activities. Meanwhile, the United States has sat back and watched the ally of our enemies and the enemy of our friends terrorize the world with its threats of nuclear war. It’s time to re-designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Between 1988 and 2008 the United States government listed North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism. The catalyst for its listing was North Korea’s involvement in the 1987 in-flight bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, which killed all 115 passengers onboard. The State Department cited a laundry list of other hostile activities pursued by the regime to justify its listing throughout the years. These included North Korea’s history of harboring and supporting terrorists, abductions, and developing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. 

North Korea continues these illicit activities today despite being removed from the list partly in return for its commitment to halt its nuclear program. This was a mistake. The fact that North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013 should alone merit the re-designation. And while the State Department routinely claims that North Korea has not been linked to terrorism since 1987, ample open-source evidence disputes this claim.

North Korea is also still a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. Its ongoing collaboration on ballistic missiles with Iran, the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, is well known.

Pyongyang has known links to the tyrannical regimes in Tehran and Damascus, and there have been several instances in the past decade in which North Korea’s two Middle Eastern clients transferred North Korean arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. In 2009 alone, three North Korean arms shipments were seized by UAE, Israeli, and Thai authorities.

In all three cases, press reports indicated that the arms were bound for terrorist groups. In July 2014, Western security sources told media outlets that Hamas brokered an agreement to purchase communications equipment and artillery rockets from the Kim regime. Sure enough, North Korean anti-tank guided missiles surfaced in Gaza that same year. 

But weapons sales are not the whole picture of North Korea’s ties to terrorist groups – there is growing evidence of Pyongyang’s advisory role to these violent organizations. Press reports in 2014 suggested that North Koreans advised Hezbollah in the construction of tunnels in Southern Lebanon in 2003-2004. Israeli military commanders believe that North Korea also provided logistical advice on Hamas’ tunnel network which it infamously used to attack Israeli civilian populations.

North Korea is also still a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. Its ongoing collaboration on ballistic missiles with Iran, the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, is well known. According to reports the two countries are presently working on the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could allow North Korea to deliver a nuclear warhead far beyond its shores.

Though the State Department will deny any veracity to growing evidence that Pyongyang and Tehran are also collaborating on nuclear weapons, North Korea has aided other unstable regimes in setting up their own nuclear shops. North Korea helped establish the al-Kibar nuclear reactor in Syria, which was destroyed by an Israeli strike in 2007, and provided game-changing nuclear materials to Libya in the early 2000s.

Aside from its involvement in weapons of mass destruction, North Korea also threatens us in cyber space.  In 2009, South Korean intelligence officials told the media that North Korea set up a cyber-warfare unit to target military servers in South Korea and the U.S. Since then, North Korean cyber-attacks have reportedly targeted the websites of the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Just last year, North Korea carried out a brazen cyber-attack against Sony Pictures that included direct threats against its employees and an ominous warning to “Remember the 11th of September 2001.” An attack on a private U.S. company that threatens action similar to the most infamous terrorist attack in our nation’s history sure sounds like terrorism to me.

Make no mistake: North Korea is a greater threat to our national security today than it was in 1988 when the US first listed North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The country is much closer to successfully developing not just nuclear weapons but missiles that can carry these nuclear weapons to drop them on the United States. Its new leader, Kim Jong Un, has followed in his father’s footsteps in his opposition to the United States and, just like his father, is teaming up with other state sponsors of terrorism to do it.

The question remains: why have we not put North Korean back on the state sponsors of terrorism list? We didn’t take them off because they stopped sponsoring terrorism – we took them off for purely diplomatic reasons that have since become irrelevant. North Korea has only grown more bold and unpredictable since 1988. It is high time the State Department calls a spade a spade and designates North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Republican Ted Poe represents Texas' Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade.

THE HILL

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

Doughnuts to Go is a small family-owned shop in California managed by Lee Ky.  Like any small business, its success depends on the hard work and grit of the folks who run it. Her success was threatened in 2012 when Doughnuts to Go was sued by ADA trolls for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit alleged minute violations, including: a mislabeled table, door handles being off by a few centimeters and the trashcan in the bathroom being in the wrong place. Lee was outraged and surprised by this lawsuit. Even more so because she is disabled herself, confined to a wheelchair and runs her store without any barriers to access. Lee was targeted by a serial plaintiff who never set foot in her store and whoalso sued nearly 80 other businesses in the area. Unfortunately, Lee is not alone. The fact is that there is a whole industry made up of people who prey on and strong-arm small businesses in order to make money off of ADA lawsuits. To these trolls, it is about making money, not helping the disabled.

In 1990, the ADA was signed into law, a monumental step to improve access and equality for all citizens in this country. Now, after 25 years of progress and advancement, the integrity of this landmark legislation is being threatened by a handful of attorneys and plaintiffs.

Small businesses are the life-blood of our communities. The vast majority of them strive to serve their customers to the best of their ability – relying on the ADA as another tool to help ensure that customers with disabilities can enjoy the services that they provide. However, despite their best attempts, certain attorneys and their pool of serial plaintiffs look for minor, easily correctable ADA infractions so they can file a lawsuit and make some cash. 

Faced with the threat of a lawsuit for minor infractions, small businesses often find themselves in a dilemma. They have few choices: settle, pay fees that match those of lengthy and expensive litigation, or spend time and money to go through the legal process.  This becomes a lose-lose situation very quickly.

At face value, these “drive-by” lawsuits are an easy way for both plaintiff and attorney to make a quick buck. In many cases, a single plaintiff signs onto multiple cases, alleging violations at businesses and properties where that plaintiff may have never set foot. In California, for example, one serial plaintiff has filed nearly 1,000 lawsuits. Some of these lawsuits are filed by plaintiffs that have never been in the business, or even live in the state. The abuse is evident. 

Unfortunately, these lawsuits are on the rise nationwide. What’s more is that local and state courts across the country are finding themselves inundated with these “drive-by” lawsuits; some have created special rules just to deal with the sheer volume of drive-by cases being heard. Because of this, local legislatures are taking notice and have begun to take action. The ADA, however, is a federal law, and as such, Congress must remedy the harmful practice of “drive-by” lawsuits targeting small businesses. 

This is why I am introducing the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015, H.R. 3765; legislation that will provide business owners with an opportunity to remedy alleged ADA infractions before being saddled within legal fees. Business owners will have a 120-day window within which to make any necessary public accommodation corrections and updates to their businesses. If the business owner fails to correct the infractions, the plaintiff retains all of their rights to pursue legal action under the ADA. This legislation restores the purpose of the ADA: to provide access and accommodation to disabled Americans, not to fatten the wallets of ADA trolls.

This bill also includes a measure aimed at bringing state and local governments, business owners, and disability advocacy groups together to improve access for the disabled community through improved education and compliance. H.R.3765 will serve as a vital partner to the ADA and will provide property owners and members of the disability community the opportunity to work together to increase the effectiveness of the ADA.

The goal of this legislation is to make all businesses comply with the ADA----not to be a cash cow for litigants that never have set foot in Doughnuts to Go.  This bill represents a common sense solution to a very real problem facing countless businesses across this country. It is time to restore the ADA’s integrity and ensure its survival for another quarter century and beyond.

Poe has represented Texas’ 2nd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Judiciary and the Foreign Affairs committees.

WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

When Russian President Vladimir Putin recently addressed the United Nations in New York City, he publicly condemned the policies of the "one center of dominance" in the post-Cold War world: America. He went on to speak directly to all of Russia's critics saying: "It is not about Russia's ambitions. … but about the recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world."

The only one who caught the foreshadowing in Putin's speech was Putin. After a frosty photo-op and handshake with President Obama, Putin boarded a plane back to Moscow. Two days later, American diplomats were notified that Russia would be dropping bombs in Syria within an hour. Russia had one message for America: "Get out of the way."

While Putin was in New York publicly scolding the United States in front of the U.N., the terrorist group Hezbollah, Iranian troops and Shiite fighters from Iraq were quietly preparing the ground game in Syria. Then came Russia, dropping bombs from the skies. Russia has come to the aid of Assad, indiscriminately bombing targets in Syria and taking the lives of anyone in the way, including Syrian rebels backed by the U.S. What is our reaction? No real action at all. The U.S. is still without a workable strategy, four years after the war in Syria began.

How did we get here? We should look no further than the White House's inaction and indecisiveness in Syria and the surrounding region. Russia has taken advantage of the power vacuum in the Middle East created by America choosing not to lead. The plan to train and equip so-called moderate rebels has been an abysmal failure. Five hundred million dollars later, all that remains are maybe four or five armed rebels after deaths and desertions, according to General John Allen, the president's chosen point man to counter ISIS. Putin sat back and watched the U.S. doing the two-step in the Middle East, drawing meaningless red lines and making concessions to our enemies like Iran. He waited; now he has made his move.

So here we are, caught flat-footed and bungling our response. Russia took advantage of the crisis and instability in Syria, entering the Middle East in a combat mission for the first time since the Cold War. It has instantly replaced the U.S. and become the dominant force in the Middle East. What's more, Russia's ground squad happens to be made up of America's enemies, Iran, Hezbollah and the militant Shiites in Iraq. So much for that Russian reset.

After the world convened for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia stunned everyone and invaded Crimea and then Eastern Ukraine. This was six years after it militarily seized one-third of the territory of Georgia, which it still controls. By now, Putin's actions should be no surprise to anyone. He is a tyrant who is hell-bent on restoring Mother Russia's dominance in the world. He is an imperialist whose sights go far beyond Russia and its backyard. He seeks world dominance, and he will not stop until he restores the old Russian Empire.

Putin is motivated by power. Any tyrant knows that one way to stay in power and suppress your people is to have a strong economy. Russia's economy is hurting, so Putin is desperate to find new ways to distract the population, boost his economy and maintain legitimacy. Building an alliance with the governments of Iran, Iraq and Syria allows Russia to have an unstoppable geopolitical and economic influence, controlling energy in the region. This monopoly will make Russia the dominant player in the Middle East and increase Putin's power in the world.

So what now? The administration's policy of "deconfliction" is clearly not going to work with the Russian Bear. Our strategy is still not clear. We need to reassert our global leadership so that our allies look to us, not Putin. The effectiveness of American air strikes has been minimal. U.S. planes are flying a quarter the number of sorties that we did in Libya, and two-thirds of them are returning home without dropping their munitions. The reason? Poor intelligence. Meanwhile, foreign fighters are able to travel freely across the Turkish border into Syria. Our NATO ally Turkey should not allow this. Our other allies in the region have shown willingness to combat extremist elements within their countries in the past, but they could do more now. They do not want to stand with Russia, but they will if we leave them no other option.

Finally, the American people need to understand why Syria matters. Syria is in turmoil, and hundreds of thousands of people have died at the hands of Assad. Millions of Syrians are running for their lives into Europe and the U.S. away from Assad and ISIS. ISIS — which has publicly called for attacks on our homeland — has taken advantage of the instability in Syria and expanded the territory under their control. Syria is to ISIS what Afghanistan was for the extremists who planned 9/11. If we don't do more, we may face serious consequences here at home.

During a 2012 presidential debate, President Obama mocked Governor Romney for calling Russia one of our biggest threats. "You said Russia ... the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years." President Obama miscalculated Russia's actions then and he is miscalculating them now. Either America steps up and leads or Russia will continue its march of aggression, and the world will be even more embroiled in turmoil. And that's just the way it is.

Ted Poe, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation & Trade, represents Texas' second congressional district. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

FOX NEWS

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

In an era of constant political gamesmanship and gridlock, getting things done in Congress is never easy. That was never clearer than the last Congress’ failure to pass long overdue reforms to an antiquated that today threatens the very thing it was intended to protect – the privacy of Americans’ digital communications and records.

A bipartisan group of more than 270 members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored legislation with the same underlying objective -- to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). And yet, these bills were left to die without a vote.

The broad support extends beyond the House. Senators Mike Lee and Pat Leahy have introduced similar ECPA legislation and it has the support of nearly one-quarter of the Senate.

ECPA reform proposals enjoy wide support from conservatives, moderates and liberals, small and big business, labor, former prosecutors and civil libertarians. And it’s obvious why. Under current law every email and text, every Google doc and Facebook message, every picture of our vacation and video of the office softball game is subject to government inspection without a warrant or probable cause if we’ve kept it longer than six months.

ECPA was written in 1986. Those were the days before the World Wide Web existed, when the first Mac had been sold only two years earlier with a nine-inch screen and 128KB of memory. No one kept anything in the “cloud.” There wasn’t any broadband or social media or tablets or Smartphones. Hard drives were small. Service providers charged a lot for the little storage capacity they sold. The relatively few people who used email then never imagined keeping an email longer than it took to send or read it.

So it was perfectly reasonable in 1986 for lawmakers to only protect new email -- those held for less than 180 days -- from government access. Who would keep anything online for longer than six months?

Three decades later, we have an answer. Everybody.

Most of us store all kinds of stuff online for a lot longer than six months. Emails, financial records, proprietary work products, schedules, photographs. Under current law all of it, every email and text, every Google doc and Facebook message, every picture of our vacation and video of the office softball game is subject to government inspection without a warrant or probable cause if we’ve kept it longer than six months.

That’s an outrageous invasion of our privacy, and unlike in 1986, ECPA is no longer an unintended assault on our liberty but an intentional one.  

Government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission are lobbying to keep the law on the books unchanged in order to acquire powers Congress and the American people never intended them to have -- to read our personal communications without the constitutional protections of a search warrant. 

Whatever our other political disagreements, most Americans share the conviction that our privacy is protected by the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” of our “persons, houses, papers and personal effects.” 

Government agents can’t raid our homes or tap our phones or read our mail without showing a judge they have probable cause to believe we’ve committed a crime and obtaining a search warrant. Why should our possessions and communications be less private online?

The reforms introduced in the House and Senate would restore ECPA’s original purpose, and protect our privacy in the ways we live, communicate, learn, transact business and recreate today.

They are simple and straightforward.  We extend constitutional protections to communications and records that Americans store online for any amount of time.

There is no need to delay ECPA reform any longer.

Americans expect us to act on their widespread concerns. The bills are written. The votes are there. Members of Congress are ready to reaffirm a founding principle of American citizenship.

While the world is always changing, our civil liberties must exist unabridged forever.

Republican Ted Poe represents Texas' Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade.

WASHINGTON TIMES

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

As Pope Francis prepares to deliver his historic address to Congress, it is important for Americans to heed his words about a form of genocide happening in the world. Globally, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. In 2013, Christians faced persecution in 102 out of 190 countries. These incidents of persecution are occurring on multiple continents. Global leaders must break their silence and speak out against this genocide.

In Asia, North Korea is the worst offender. According to the 2015 Open Doors’ World Watch List, North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. There, Christians are often sent to prison camps for possessing Bibles and are sometimes even executed for their faith. The State Department estimates that 80,000 to 120,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in labor camps, many because of their religious beliefs. In November 2013, 80 North Korean Christians were reportedly executed for possessing Bibles and South Korean religious films.

 The Middle East is the hotbed for the Islamic extremism that fuels the genocide of Christians there. American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been languishing in a prison cell in Iran for the past 2 years because of his faith. In one Pakistani city, Christian churches have been bombed, killing scores of people. In the same town, a 14-year-old Christian boy was beaten and set on fire simply because he said he was a Christian. Burns now cover more than 55 percent of his body.
In Egypt, over a three-day period in 2013, Coptic Christians experienced the worst attack against their churches in 700 years. Forty Christian churches were destroyed and more than 100 other sites severely damaged. One boy was beaten to death for wearing a cross around his neck. Tens of thousands of Copts have fled the country.

In Libya, the Islamic State captured and beheaded 21 people because they were Christian. When the victims’ families wanted to build a church in their honor, they were beaten by a Muslim mob.

The situation is even worse in Syria. The head of all Franciscans in the Middle East has reported that “of the 4,000 inhabitants of the village of Ghassanieh no more than 10 people remain.” It is not just Assad’s thugs who are killing Christians. Militants expelled 90 percent of the Christians in the City of Homs. Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch says that out of a population of 1.75 million, 450,000 Syrian Christians have fled their homes in fear.

The story is just as dark in Iraq, where the Christian population has disappeared almost entirely — dropping 90 percent since the Persian Gulf War. The number of churches has declined from 300 in 2003 to just 57 today.

The situation is no better in parts of Africa. In April, the terrorist group al-Shabab attacked a university in Kenya by going door to door to find and execute Christians. The same terrorist group attacked a shopping mall in Kenya in 2013 and took shoppers captive.

History tells us that the persecution of Christians has been going on since Stephen was stoned for his faith in Acts 7. Rogue states such as North Korea, Pakistan and Iran, and terrorist groups like the Islamic State, get their legitimacy and power from imprisoning and killing Christians. As a country, the United States needs to re-examine its relationships with states that persecute or tolerate the persecution of Christians.

Maybe we should withhold funds to these countries until they start protecting instead of arresting Christians. And let’s call groups like the Islamic State what they truly are: radical and dangerous Islamic extremists.

Religious liberty is a basic civil right, a human right and an inalienable right. Since pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution in their homeland, our nation has stood as a bright beacon to the world for religious freedom for all faiths — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others.

We cannot sit idly by while Christians worldwide are beaten, beheaded and brutalized for their faith. We must be that beacon that shines in proud protection of religious freedom for all.

Rep. Ted Poe is a Republican who represents Texas’ 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In just a few days, Pope Francis will deliver a historic address to Congress. Earlier this year, he spoke about "a form of genocide" happening in the world. Globally, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. In 2013, Christians faced persecution in 102 out of 190 countries. These incidents of persecution are occurring on multiple continents throughout the globe. Global leaders must break their silence and speak out against this genocide.

In Asia, North Korea is the worst offender. According to the 2015 Open Doors' World Watch List, North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. There, Christians are often sent to prison camps for possessing Bibles and are sometimes even executed for their faith. The State Department estimates that 80,000-120,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in labor camps, many because of their religious beliefs. In November 2013, 80 North Korean Christians were reportedly executed for possessing Bibles and South Korean religious films.

The Middle East is the hotbed for the Islamic Extremism that fuels the genocide of Christians there. American Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini has been languishing in a jail cell in Iran for the last two-and-a-half years because of his faith. In one Pakistani city, Christian Churches have been bombed, killing scores of people. In the same town, a 14-year-old Christian boy was beaten and set on fire simply because he said he was a Christian. Burns now cover more than 55 percent of his body.

In Egypt, over a three-day period in 2013, Coptic Christians experienced the worst attack against their churches in 700 years. Forty Christian churches were destroyed and more than 100 other sites severely damaged. One young boy was beaten to death for wearing a cross around his neck. Tens of thousands of Copts have fled the country.

In Libya, the Islamic State captured and beheaded 21 people because they were Christian. When the victims' families wanted to build a church in their honor, they were beaten by a Muslim mob.

The situation is even worse in Syria. The head of all Franciscans in the Middle East has reported that "of the 4,000 inhabitants of the village of Ghassanieh ... no more than 10 people remain." It is not just Assad's thugs who are killing Christians. Militants expelled 90 percent of the Christians in the City of Homs. Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch says that out of a population of 1.75 million, 450,000 Syrian Christians have fled their homes in fear.

The story is just as dark in Iraq, where the Christian population has disappeared almost entirely — dropping 90 percent since the first Gulf War. The number of churches has declined from 300 in 2003 to just 57 today.

The situation is no better in parts of Africa. In April, the terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked a university in Kenya, going door to door to find and execute Christians. The same terrorist group attacked a shopping mall in Kenya in 2013, and took shoppers captive.

History tells us that the persecution of Christians has been going on since Stephen was stoned for his faith in Acts 7. Rogue states like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran, and terrorist groups like the Islamic State, get their legitimacy and power from imprisoning and killing Christians. As a country, the United States needs to reexamine its relationship with states that persecute or tolerate the persecution of Christians.

Maybe we should withhold funds to these countries until they start protecting instead of arresting Christians. And let's call groups like the Islamic State what they truly are: radical and dangerous Islamic extremists.

Religious liberty is a basic civil right, a human right and an inalienable right. Since pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution in their homeland, our nation has stood as a bright beacon to the world for religious freedom for all faiths — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others.

We cannot sit idly by while Christians worldwide are beaten, beheaded and brutalized for their faith. We must be that beacon that shines in proud protection of religious freedom for all.

ROLL CALL

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

The strength of the friendship between the United States and the South Korea today was forged under fire and toughened by more than six decades of facing down mutual security threats and working together to improve the everyday lives of our citizens. Today, our countries stand together as trading partners, allies and friends.

The origins of our friendship could not be more significant. From 1950 through 1953, more than 33,000 Americans and 137,000 of our Korean allies died in order to stop the spread of communism across the Korean Peninsula. Since the armistice that all but ended the Korean War, U.S. military personnel have maintained a continuous presence on the Korean Peninsula and worked with their South Korean counterparts to keep the peace in the region. Our alliance has continued to grow in the more than 60 years since. In January 2014, the United States and South Korea successfully concluded negotiations for a new five-year Special Measures Agreement, which establishes the framework for South Korean contributions to offset the costs associated with the stationing of the U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula.

As two vibrant free-market democracies, cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea extends beyond the battlefield, including encouraging economic growth, promoting civilian nuclear energy development and partnering on emerging challenges, such as global public health and cybersecurity.

On the economic front, the alliance took a big step forward with the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement taking effect in 2012. Two-way trade between the U.S. and South Korea now exceeds $125 billion annually, and South Korea is America’s seventh largest trading partner. U.S. exports of goods to South Korea total about $43 billion a year — up 92 percent from 2002. These exports support high-wage American jobs in high-value sectors, such as semiconductors, machinery, aircraft and agricultural products. With $6.6 billion invested in the U.S., South Korea further supports high-paying American jobs in the auto industry and other sectors.

Building on the momentum of the free trade agreement, on June 15 the U.S. and South Korea signed an important agreement supporting the civil nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries. This “123 Agreement” will allow the United States and South Korea to continue their civilian nuclear energy trade, supporting American jobs and injecting billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, while also adhering to U.S. nonproliferation standards.

While South Korea, like other countries, has been struck by new and challenging diseases, it is working with the U.S. to answer public health emergencies not only in its country but also in other countries. For example, American and Korean doctors and nurses traveled to West Africa to treat patients suffering from Ebola. With the experience gained from addressing such emergencies, South Korea can help ensure that outbreaks, such as MERS, do not spread throughout Korea to its visitors, travelers and to other nations.

Cybersecurity represents a new challenge to our enduring relationship. South Korea is leveraging its position as a top digital innovator to take the lead in countering the malicious cyber-actors who are attacking and hacking information storage systems throughout the world. Its neighbor North Korea has already shown its willingness to go after the U.S. when it brazenly hacked Sony Studios. We need to work together with South Korea to confront this global threat.

Have you ever been bitten by a sea lion? Pecked by a turkey? Or had two collisions in succession with a lamppost?

Welcome to ICD-10 — where each of the above scenarios has a corresponding government-mandated code.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a coding system used in most countries for research purposes. Here in the U.S., the medical community is also forced to use it for billing. Currently, the U.S. operates under ICD-9, which has 14,000 diagnostic codes.

On October 1, 2015, doctors in the U.S. may be forced to implement the tenth iteration: ICD-10, which has five times as many codes as its predecessor — nearly 70,000 diagnostic codes. Some of these new codes include injuries like getting hurt at the library, suffering burns due to water skis set on fire, suffering injury in an unspecified balloon incident or being mauled multiple times by a duck.

No, really.

The absurdity of these examples aside, ICD-10 will have serious, costly consequences for physicians and patients. With 56,000 more new mandated codes, ICD-10 will require extensive training for providers and their staff. That's time away from patients. It's also money spent on code training instead of being used to hire another doctor or nurse to actually help treat patients.

The use of the wrong code — a realistic possibility, given tens of thousands of codes — can be punished with a significant penalty. Adding an even thicker layer of bureaucracy between patient and doctor, ICD-10 could cost medical practices an estimated $56,000 to $8,000,000 to implement, depending on the size of the practice. After Canada implemented ICD-10, the Vancouver Island Health Authority reported that the average coding time more than doubled, from 12-15 minutes to 33 minutes under ICD-10. The new system helped create a significant backlog of 139 days.

All this time and money being spent on coding means less time for doctors to treat a problem. The harsh reality is that not a single dime of this mandate will help patients.

Just this week, the Obama administration announced a one-year grace period for the implementation of the new code system. Yet this new guidance does nothing for physicians who are unable to implement this costly program by the October 1 deadline. At the very least, both physicians who attempt to implement this burdensome mandate and those who are unable to fully implement it should be given serious relief. The best solution would be to scrap ICD-10 altogether. That is why we introduced and co-sponsored H.R. 2126, the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015. If passed, this legislation will prohibit the federal government from forcing medical providers to adopt ICD-10. This is just one small way of putting families, patients, and doctors back in charge of health care, instead of having it run by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington.

The federal government must let doctors do what they are trained to do — help people. A new system of 70,000 codes and classifications is not only ill advised, but completely unhelpful to medicine. Doctors want to help the sick and injured — let's help them to do that instead of being tied down with endless paperwork.

Tom Price is a Republican representing Georgia's 6th congressional district. Ted Poe is a Republican politician representing Texas's 2nd congressional district.

TEXAS TRIBUNE

Byline: John Cornyn and Ted Poe

Chained to a bed in a warehouse. Branded like cattle. Set on fire. These are just some of the horrific stories we've heard from women who have suffered as victims of human trafficking here in Texas.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, plain and simple. Sadly, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Texas has the second-highest number of reported incidents of human trafficking in the country. While this horrific underground industry has been hidden for years in plain sight, the good news is that efforts to fight it are growing across the nation, and Texas is on the front lines.

Last week we had the opportunity to visit the Letot Center, a rehabilitation facility in Dallas where we saw firsthand what can happen when government officials, law enforcement officers, nonprofits and concerned citizens join forces to restore the lives of human trafficking victims. We were joined by advocates from the nonprofit New Friends New Life, an organization that provides job training, financial assistance, life skills coaching and special programs to address the challenges that survivors and their families face. With the addition of a brand-new all-female facility, the Letot Center and groups like New Friends New Life not only provide a safe home for trafficking survivors, but also help arm them with the resources to rebuild their lives.

One brave survivor we met was Amanda Jones, who became a victim of human trafficking after she was kidnapped in Dallas at the age of 15. For nine long years, she lived in terror as she was repeatedly sold for sex. Through the New Friends New Life’s holistic approach — which addresses the physical, mental and spiritual needs of victims — Amanda and her daughter are now living proof that there is hope for trafficking survivors fighting abuse, addiction or poverty.

As former judges, we strongly believe in not only punishing the people who commit these horrendous crimes, but also helping victims rebuild their lives. And as fathers, we refuse to sit back while children are being bought and sold in our own state. That's why we authored the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act — to provide law enforcement with new tools to apprehend those who commit these heinous crimes, and to provide resources for restoration for the survivors. We're proud that this bipartisan bill has been signed by the president and is now the law of the land.

Under our legislation, a special fund will be created to help these victims get the shelter and services they need, providing them with a fresh start. The law ensures that those who have been sold into slavery are treated as victims rather than as criminals. The legislation will also strengthen law enforcement tools to take down all human traffickers and the organized criminal networks supporting them. Finally, the law targets the predators who purchase trafficked women.  

Partnerships on the federal, state and local level will be instrumental in eradicating these crimes. We must do everything possible to support survivors like Amanda to break the cycle of exploitation, overcome the pain of their experiences and start a new life. We can achieve this if organizations like New Friends New Life and facilities like the Letot Center have the tools and resources they need to serve every victim who comes through their doors.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act will help us accomplish this, and we will continue fighting to ensure that this new law is fully enforced and implemented.