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By: Siranush Ghazanchyan of Public Radio of Armenia

Five members of the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary delegation arrived in Washington, DC today for a week-long series of meetings, organized by the Armenian Embassy, with the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Administration officials, think tank and foreign policy experts, and Armenian American leaders, all aimed at strengthening U.S.-Armenia political, economic and military relations, deepening the enduring friendship between the American and Armenian peoples, and encouraging continued constructive engagement by the United States on a range of regional development and conflict resolution priorities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation is headed by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia and includes Parliamentarians Armen Ashotyan, Edmon Marukyan, Aghvan Vardanyan and Naira Zohrabyan

“We look forward to this week’s historic Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group visit to DC, hosted by the Embassy of Armenia to the United States,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “This week in Washington marks Armenia’s political transition to a Parliamentary democracy and a major milestone in the growth of U.S.-Armenia relations.”

“Policy-driven visits afford visiting multi-party Armenian Parliamentary delegations such as this with an excellent ‘deep-dive’ opportunity to explore areas of cooperation with their U.S. legislative counterparts in the Congressional Armenian Caucus and key figures across the Washington, DC foreign policy landscape, while also engaging directly with Armenian American civic and advocacy leaders regarding ANCA’s forward-leaning pro-Armenian/Artsakh advocacy agenda,” concluded Hamparian.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, and one of two U.S. House Members of Armenian descent, welcomed the delegation today, noting, in a statement to the ANCA, “This historic visit is a tribute to our countries’ shared goals for strengthening the close ties that bind Armenia and America together. I very much appreciated the warm welcome that I received while visiting last year, and I look forward to receiving an update on the issues that we discussed – including Armenia’s constitutional and economic reforms. By celebrating our proud heritage and triumphs, as well as sharing our struggles, I’m confident that we will continue on a path of friendship and prosperity for both of our nations.”

Fellow Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Dave Trott (R-MI), concurred, telling the ANCA, “I would like to welcome the Armenia-US Parliamentary Delegation to our Nation’s Capital. Southeast Michigan is home to a strong and vibrant population of Armenian Americans, and I’m proud to be their voice in Congress.  I look forward to a productive discussion this week regarding Armenia and the United States’ shared interests, and how to enhance our budding relationship. As a co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I plan to spend my final year in Congress continuing to expand the United States-Armenian diplomatic, cultural, and economic relationship.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat and Vice-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, shared with the ANCA, “I am pleased to welcome the Armenian Parliamentary Delegation, headed by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, to Washington, D.C.  This is an important moment to reaffirm the close and enduring friendship between Armenia and the United States. Along with the rest of the leadership of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I look forward to discussing our shared interests with the Armenian delegation.”

The Congressional Armenian Caucus will be hosting a reception with the Armenia Parliamentary delegation on Wednesday evening, March 7th, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm in the U.S. Capitol at the Visitor Center Atrium.

The Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation visit follows a Congressional Armenian Caucus visit to Armenia last year by Rep. Speier along with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and David Valadao (R-CA) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).  Representatives Pallone, Valadao and Gabbard also visited the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), where they reviewed the U.S. funded demining work of The HALO Trust and offered remarks at the Artsakh Parliament in addition to visits with government leaders and various schools and historic sites.

Washington, D.C.—Today, on a bipartisan vote of 388 to 25, the House of Representatives passed  the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA),  which Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) co-sponsored. FOSTA creates a new federal statute with increased penalties for sex traffickers online. It also amends the Communications Decency Act to permit local and state prosecutions of offending websites.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This bill puts victims of online sex trafficking first.  It will shut down websites that profit from this abhorrent crime and send the criminals who run them to jail.  It is important we let survivors of sex trafficking know they are not alone and justice will be served.”

Specifically, FOSTA:

  • Ensures that victims of sex trafficking are able to sue malicious websites that violate federal law regarding online sex trafficking
  • Clarifies that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not grant immunity to websites that advertise, solicit, or facilitate online sex trafficking
  • Creates a new federal statute that allows law enforcement to prosecute websites that have the intent to promote or facilitate illegal prostitution
  • Increases penalties that prosecutors can seek against websites that promote the illegal prostitution of 5 or more persons
  • Gives state and local authorities the ability to enforce the new sex trafficking statutes

By: Jerry Davis of Portage Daily Register

Approaching spring generally focuses on browns turning green. Any hint of a green tint can become a monumental step toward spring.

Noting and celebrating events aid too. Daylight Saving Time (March 11); turkeys gobbling; red-winged blackbirds’ liquidly, gurgling song from cattail marshes; and water noisily seeking lower terrain all help diminish brown until green dominates.

A quick woodland, field and waterway trek can verify there are several evergreen ferns now uncovered by recent sun and rain. Like most early greens, these show little growth with the exception of marsh cabbage (the skunk arum), which is in the midst of flowering.

Some invasives, including garlic mustard’s second-year shoot show green. Oodles of mosses and moss-like plants exhibit a hint of chlorophyll’s color, too, and are larger than the week prior. So, too, are watercress shoots.

Bald eagles are sitting low in their nest bowls, incubating an egg or two. Thirty-six days from beginning that egg-warming, the first yellow, fuzzy eaglet will take its first taste of carrion. One nest near Readstown, a few steps off US Highway 14, continues to have prime viewing because it’s in an evergreen white pine, not a broadleaf-producing cottonwood or oak.

As with other nesters, DNR’s Dave Matheys reported only the incubator’s “bald” head is showing unless it stands to leave or turn the eggs.

The Class ACT Charter School at Chequamegon High School has been working with their adviser, Paula Zwicke, Ed Kane of the Park Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and two Wisconsin legislators, Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland and Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield to add the ruffed grouse to Wisconsin’s list of state symbols.

Passing the grouse bill will make this animal the state’s small game bird.

Almost no one knew that Wisconsin had a state herb. Ginseng shows up as the last symbol to be crowned. With all the press about the cheese bill, somehow the ginseng bill slipped by unnoticed, even to DNR folks whose positions entail working with this plant’s management.

Eighty-four-year-old Jay Ford Thurston has authored and published another trout-fishing book, “Trout Central: 50 best Wisconsin driftless streams.” It is available from online book providers and through Thurston’s web page, www.trouttip.com.

Rep. Ron Kind D-WI, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, are still waiting for action on their bill, H.R. 4454, Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act, which would support state and tribal efforts to develop and implement strategies to address CWD in Wisconsin and other states.

One Dane County trout angler ventured out to test the waters on Iowa County’s Trout Creek last weekend after floodwaters receded. He was able to find and use an antique fishing stile to cross a barbed-wire fence to access state land to cast his spinners.

The spearing season for much larger fish, lake sturgeon, ended Sunday with about 950 fish taken from the uplakes and Lake Winnebago. Final reports and analyses of fish sizes, ages and stomach contents are forthcoming.

Turkeys and deer continue to use harvested corn and soybean fields to obtain grain to supplement browse. While deer are becoming more docile, gobblers continue to elevate the notice of hunters with their fanning, strutting and gobbling.

Most of the recent interesting weather, including high water, had minimal impacts on wildlife, vegetation and fishes. Still, all life would be more docile if March is more lamb-like than mountain lionish.

By: Ed Zagorski of the Watertown Daily Times

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner hosted a town hall meeting Sunday bringing nearly 80 residents and interested individuals to the confines of Watertown Municipal Building. Along with Sensenbrenner, who represents the 5th Congressional District, was with state Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, for the hour-and-a-half meeting.

Before the first Watertown resident spoke, Sensenbrenner told the crowd in 2017 he held 115 public meetings with some being contentious. He adjourned a recent meeting in Wauwatosa after he gave seven warnings because of disorderly behavior. On Sunday, the crowd were two shy of being adjourned.

When questioned on what he and his colleagues can do to stem gun violence in the United States, Sensenbrenner said there has been a law on the books for more than 20 years that makes it illegal to carry a firearm within any school in the country.

"That law was not enforced," he said. "Congress does not enforce laws. The executive branch enforces laws."

Sensenbrenner said a lot of information was known about the individual in Parkland, Florida before the school tragedy happened Feb. 14.

"The FBI ignored a tip that came in that the shooter had a mental problem and was talking about shooting up schools. The security officer didn't go into the school when the shooting started. There were three sheriff's deputies outside of the school that didn't go into the school to save lives," Sensenbrenner said. "There has to be a lot of introspection on that as well."

He said in 1993-94 he was the principle Republican author of the Brady Bill now the Brady Handgun Prevention Act.

Sensenbrenner said the effort led to the 1998 launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the control of the FBI, now commonly known as NICS.

Under the system, firearm dealers cross-reference the information of prospective buyers with NICS data to ensure that the purchaser is not on the list of convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens or those convicted of domestic violence.

"But as I have stated many times, NICS is only as strong as the information entered into it," Sensenbrenner said. "If federal agencies or other law enforcement bodies fail to provide NICS with the necessary information, dangerous individuals will slip through the cracks and purchase firearms."

He said because of the "Brady Bill" 700,000 guns were stopped from being sold to dangerous individuals.

"There are a lot of things that we can legislate until we are blue in the face but are really not effective in stopping mass murders as we have seen in Parkland,Florida and beforehand," Sensenbrenner said. 

He said he supports getting rid of bump stocks which make semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons or machine guns. 

"We need to start thinking of how people misuse guns and keeping the guns from them," he said. "One of the keys to doing this is to have a better screening on mental health issues because practically everyone that has been involved in a mass shooting has demonstrated some type of mental health issue before the mass shooting takes place. We have to be proactive and vigorously enforcing the laws already on the books."

Sensenbrenner said if the FBI and local law enforcement had done their jobs in Florida those kids would be alive today.

Another person asked why the two sides in government can't get along?

Sensenbrenner and Jagler both agreed that doesn't grab the headlines as two factions arguing.

"We do get along on an awful lot of things, but you never hear about it because the media increases their ratings, they sell more newspapers by talking about conflict and controversy and real or perceived conduct," Sensenbrenner said. "It's very frustrating for us that do perform a lot of work across the aisle."

He said he sends out a lot of press releases but it doesn't get the print or airtime because it doesn't have the conflict or controversy to it.

Jagler said the same. 

"Ninety three percent of the bills signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker this session had bipartisan votes," Jagler said. "It is very frustrating to us who work on the other side of the aisle. I had a bill pertaining to mental health issues when a doctor or an emergency physician has a problem with a person in crisis," Jagler said. "They believe this person may harm themselves or may go out and shoot somebody or do a mass shooting. There was a reluctance for doctors to contact law enforcement because of privacy concerns. I worked very hard with Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, and got this bill passed that doctors are applauding and nobody knows about it because it's not sexy. It's frustrating to hear there is not a lot of bipartisanship in Madison when there is."

Retired educator Jan Detrie said she has a 14-year-old grandson in school and asked why the shooter in Parkland, Florida, was able to purchase the AR-15 he used during the school shooting. Detrie also reminded Sensenbrenner he accepted donations from the National Rifle Association.

"Are you going to continue to take donations from the NRA?" Detrie said.

Sensenbrenner said the NRA is free to contribute or not to elected officials.

"We have to be much more sensitive to those who exhibit mental health problems before they end up causing a tragedy," he said. "This kid did that on a number of occasions and the FBI did nothing."

Sensenbrenner said there was a ban on semiautomatic weapons during President Bill Cinton's time in office.

"After the ban expired there was no increase in the number of crimes that were committed with semiautomatic weapons. It was something that was cosmetic. It did not get to the root cause of the problem." he said. 

Sensenbrenner said he takes an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution at the beginning of every term, which includes the Second Amendment.

"Each of us in the United States has a right to keep or bear arms if we wish to keep or bear arms," he said.

By: LNP Editorial Board

Congress recessed for 10 days Thursday and many lawmakers returned to their home districts to hold in-person town hall events. According to Smithsonianmag.com, the very first town hall in the United States was established in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1633. “Per the town’s court records, every Monday at the sound of an 8 a.m. bell, townspeople held a meeting to settle and establish ‘such orders as may tend to the general good as aforesayd.’ ” U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin,  held 115 town halls in 2017, the most of any lawmaker from either party, according to Town Hall Project.

Here’s the thing about town halls these days. If you’re a Republican lawmaker, you’re effectively organizing a protest against yourself when you schedule an in-person town hall.

To those lawmakers we say: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

In-person town halls serve an important purpose in our democracy, and no legislator seems to understand that more than Sensenbrenner, whose town halls haven’t exactly been ice cream socials.

“From the moment I began the meeting, much of what I said was met with loud boos and the waving of ‘disagree’ signs. Some spoke over individuals who didn’t agree with their points of view, while others interrupted recognized speakers,” Sensenbrenner wrote in describing a 2017 event in an op-ed for The Hill.

But the contentious, even boorish, atmosphere didn’t stop Sensenbrenner from having another town hall, and another, and dozens more.

So why would he keep doing it knowing he was going to absorb more blows?

“No matter how factious, perverse, disrespectful or uncomfortable such meetings have become, the importance of holding them never diminishes. Rather than avoid the unpleasant atmosphere of some of my meetings this year, I chose to carry on. Positive change can’t happen without open and honest dialogue between elected officials and their constituents, and accountability to those we represent is critical for a truly representative government,” Sensenbrenner wrote.

We’ve made no secret of our desire to see more — a lot more — of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, both Republicans, in Lancaster County. We’ve made several pleas to Smucker (who has held numerous telephone events) to schedule an in-person town hall. None has been scheduled. In fact, Smucker hasn’t had a single in-person town hall since he was elected to Congress.

Our readers have noticed.

“What is the difference between Punxsutawney Phil and Congressman Lloyd Smucker?” wrote Terry Zeller, of Mount Joy, in January. “The groundhog comes out of his hole every year to tell us whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring, whereas ‘The Smucker’ refuses to hold even one live town hall to answer questions from his constituents.”

More than anything else, this is disappointing. And it’s not who Smucker was as a state senator. Nor was this the Smucker we believed we were getting when the LNP Editorial Board endorsed him in 2016.

“We trust Smucker to champion the concerns of Lancaster County residents in Congress. He understands the challenges we’re facing here,” we wrote at the time.

The only way for Smucker to truly connect with voters — supporters and critics alike — is to meet with them, in-person, in an open forum.

But a word or two here for those clamoring for Smucker to hold a town hall.

If you want Smucker, or any other lawmaker for that matter, to hold a public event because it’s the ideal venue to shout and create a public spectacle, you might want to sit out the rest of this editorial.

The reason lawmakers shy away from town halls is they tend to turn into free-for-alls. No one listens. There’s a lot of yelling, some chanting, and ultimately, nothing gets accomplished.

For example, Republicans state Sen. Scott Martin and state Rep. Bryan Cutler were routinely disrupted at a town hall in May. There were emotional exchanges along with some name-calling and other unpleasantness from constituents. In the end, it wasn’t the least bit constructive.

We would like to believe a civil discourse is still possible. If you agree, by all means, keep calling for a town hall because we believe Smucker owes the people of his district — Republicans, Democrats and independents — a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face chinwag.

But let’s do it the right way.

As Sensenbrenner wrote, “Whether or not we agree, we can be agreeable. It’s how we grow as communities and as a nation.”

Amen.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), along with all other members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, sent a letter  of support to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding an effort to combat imbalanced trade incentives and protect jobs in Wisconsin. Specifically, the request was made by the Port of Milwaukee on behalf of Quad/Graphics, which employs 7,700 Wisconsin residents and is headquartered in Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. 

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “Quad/Graphics provides thousands of family-sustaining jobs across Wisconsin, including many in my district. It’s important that we correct these perverse trade incentives that would put family’s livelihoods in jeopardy. I’m proud that our congressional delegation can come together in support of these hardworking individuals.”

The full text of the letter is available below:

February 16, 2018

The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. 
Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20230 

RE: Foreign Trade Zone 41, Port of Milwaukee - Subzone Request, Docket Number: B-001-2018

Dear Secretary Ross:

We are pleased to write to you today to support the application (“application”) for a Foreign Trade Zone Subzone (“FTZ”) request by the Port of Milwaukee (ID #41-O). The request is on behalf of Quad/Graphics - Chemical Research\Technology related to the importation of pigments necessary for the manufacture of commercial publication inks.

Quad/Graphics, Inc. (“Quad”) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Chemical Research\Technology (“CR\T”) is a large commercial printer that operates 57 printing facilities across 25 states and employs nearly 20,000 people throughout the United States. In Wisconsin alone, Quad provides family-supporting jobs to more than 7,700 people.

Quad manufactures ink at the proposed site in Wisconsin for the sole purpose of supplying ink to the other Quad printing facilities throughout the United States. As part of the ink manufacturing operations, the company employs 165 people at four locations across the country, 84 of whom are employed at the Hartford, Wisconsin CR\T facility. On a yearly basis, Quad will consume 250 million pounds of ink, which equates to more than 10 million pounds of pigment/flush demand.

Quad faces significant challenges in procuring the necessary raw materials from the domestic marketplace. Due in large part to the consolidating nature of the printing industry, the domestic supply of production ink pigments is also consolidating and in many cases production has moved to overseas markets. This has resulted in limited production capacities and insufficient pigment supplies for particular pigments in the United States.

It is Quad’s strong preference to buy the pigments used to manufacture its publication inks from domestic suppliers. However, given the current market conditions, Quad has no other option but to import the required raw materials from foreign countries in order to meet customer demand.

Additionally, and importantly, the current tariff structure has created unintended incentives. Currently, the import duty on the pigments specified in the application is 6.5 percent, while the import duty for finished ink is only 1.8 percent. This nearly five percent difference creates a perverse incentive for Quad to move ink production outside U.S. borders and import the finished ink, which is assessed at the lower duty rates, rather than import the raw materials and then manufacture the ink domestically with U.S. employees. Quad and CR\T are both committed to maintaining their ink manufacturing within United States borders, but due to the domestic supply issues and increased costs attributable to varying duty rates, the incentives are misplaced.

In an effort to save American jobs, Quad has submitted this FTZ application in order to correct the perverse incentives and instead enable Quad to continue manufacturing ink within the United States. Approving this FTZ will ensure that these ink manufacturing jobs remain in the United States. Taking this action clearly serves the best interest of the local, state, and U.S. economies as it will assist Quad in its efforts to maintain its U.S.-based ink manufacturing operations and the employment base associated with those facilities.

We all share the common priority of keeping and growing jobs in America. Supporting Quad by approving this application will help achieve this goal. Through this FTZ, Quad will be able to provide additional opportunities for economic development and job growth within its plants throughout the country.

We ask that you give this request full and fair consideration, help us keep jobs in America, and move quickly to approve this Foreign Trade Zone Subzone – in a manner consistent with all laws, rules and regulations. We appreciate your consideration and attention to this request and look forward to working with you continue to support and grow jobs here in the United States.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.                                                                        
U.S. Representative                                                                                        

Paul D. Ryan
Speaker 

Ron Johnson             
U.S. Senator                                                                                                  

Tammy Baldwin
U.S. Senator

Ron Kind                                                                                                      
U.S. Representative                                                                                  

Gwen Moore
U.S. Representative 

Sean Duffy                                                                                        
U.S. Representative                                                         

Mark Pocan
U.S. Representative 

Glenn Grothman                                                
U.S. Representative                                                                                     

Mike Gallagher
U.S. Representative

###

 

By: Armenian Weekly

WASHINGTON—U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin received a Congressional clarion call to action from Armenian Caucus Co-Chair David Valadao (R-Calif.), senior Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and 29 of their U.S. House colleagues to renegotiate the existing, outdated Double Tax Treaty with Armenia, an obsolete Cold War-era accord—recognized today by the U.S. but not Armenia—that was negotiated with the now defunct U.S.S.R. more than four decades ago.

On the same day, Secretary Mnuchin, responding to growing Congressional interest, testified that the Treasury Department will dedicate staff resources to pursuing a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty.

“We commend Representatives Valadao and Sherman and their colleagues—collectively representing over 22 million Americans—ffor taking concrete steps to eliminate obstacles to enhanced U.S.-Armenia trade by calling for a new U.S.-Armenia Tax Treaty,” said ANCA Board Member Aida Dimejian.  “Beyond the immediate benefits of preventing double taxation, such an accord would reinforce the friendship of the American and Armenian peoples, facilitate the expansion of bilateral economic relations, thereby deepening Armenia’s ties to the West and providing Yerevan with greater strategic options and independence in dealing with regional powers.”

“American and Armenian business have close ties and it’s time to end the double taxation currently imposed on businesses in both nations,” explained Rep. Valadao.  “By renegotiating our tax treaty with Armenia, we can continue to strengthen our relationship with a close ally while encouraging trade and investment in our great nations,” he continued.

“Modernizing our double tax treaty with Armenia is long overdue,” explained Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who pressed Secretary Mnuchin on the issue during the House Financial Services Committee hearing earlier today. “This is not only an opportunity to reaffirm our friendship with Armenia, but to also create new opportunities for investment and growth.”

Joining Representatives Valadao and Sherman in calling on Secretary Mnuchin to take action are House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich.), Vice-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Representatives: Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-RI), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.).

The Congressional letter notes that “The existing Soviet-era treaty does not reflect the increasing complexity of a globalized world and the friendship between the American and Armenian peoples,” then calls upon Secretary Mnuchin to, “prioritize the renegotiation of the double tax treaty with Armenia.” The letter also underscores that “the complexities of the international tax structure should not discourage American and Armenian companies from conducting business with each other due to double taxation. The need for updated guidelines that reflect the current state of U.S.-Armenian relations and recently passed tax reform legislation cannot be understated.”

The full text of the Valadao-Sherman letter is available here.

Background

Following the signing of the U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2015, the ANCA has been working closely with a broad range of legislators to encourage the Department of Treasury to negotiate a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty. In September 2017, the ANCA joined with Paul Korian and Peklar Pilavjian, leading U.S. investors in Yerevan’s landmark Marriott hotel, for a series of Capitol Hill and State Department meetings making the case for an updated compact. Internationally renowned Tufenkian Artisan Carpets; Triada Studio, the Armenia-based creator of the Apple Design Award-winning Shadowmatic Game; and PicsArt, the Yerevan and San Francisco based makers of one of the most popular photo-editing, collage and drawing apps, are among the many firms urging the lifting of barriers to U.S.-Armenia trade through the implementation of a new double-tax treaty.

A U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty would establish a clear legal framework for investors and individuals that have business activities in both jurisdictions, preventing double taxation and facilitating the expansion of economic relations. It would also help reinforce the friendship of the American and Armenian peoples, anchoring Armenia to the West, and providing Yerevan with greater strategic options and independence in dealing with regional powers.

The U.S. has double tax treaties with many small countries, including Estonia, Jamaica, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia. Armenia has double tax treaties with many advanced countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

For the latest ANCA fact sheet about the benefits of an updated U.S.-Armenia Double Tax treaty, visit: https://anca.org/taxtreaty

Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner

An attorney selected to advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court says he might have recommended against surveilling former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. But he was never asked for an opinion.

John Cline was one of the first people designated by the shadowy court’s judges as eligible to advise them on privacy and other intelligence collection issues, but he was not consulted on the Page case — or any other — during his two years on the amici curiae roster.

Cline served as an on-call expert alongside five others when the FBI and Justice Department sought a warrant to spy on Page, a businessman who had worked in Russia, on Oct. 21, 2016. The government received the warrant the same day, and later three 90-day renewals.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans argued in a memo released Friday that surveillance of Page improperly hinged on opposition research compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by Democrats and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It also argued that information wasn't available to the court, though that point has been disputed.

“If I had access to the underlying application, I might have argued that the Steele dossier was unreliable because of its origins, and perhaps for other reasons as well,” Cline told the Washington Examiner Monday.

It’s unclear if any of the other eligible FISC amici curiae were consulted on the Page case, but people familiar with the panel of experts say their opinion is rarely solicited.

The role of FISC amici curiae was created by the 2015 USA Freedom Act, a law that ended the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. call records and made various reforms to enhance privacy and transparency. The role was seen as a way to bring balance to the FISC, where judges often only hear the government's arguments.

The Freedom Act says the FISC “shall” use amici when confronted with “a novel or significant interpretation of the law, unless the court issues a finding that such appointment is not appropriate,” and “may” use amici “in any instance as such court deems appropriate.”

The reform law's lead sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he would like to see the amici role strengthened in the wake of the Page memo.

“The recently released memo raised many concerns about the intelligence community’s use of FISA and Congress’ oversight of these powers,” Sensenbrenner told the Examiner. “As Congress moves forward with investigating these matters, we should reconsider strengthening the role of the amici curiae for FISC to ensure that every American’s Fourth Amendment right is properly protected.”

The FBI and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say the GOP's memo misrepresented classified information and made inaccurate and incomplete claims about secret court filings. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the memo inaccurately said that the government withheld information about the political nature of Steele’s work.

Some experts, such as Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, argue the probable-cause standard for a warrant might have been met even with Steele’s partisan motives known to judges. “We just can’t tell” based on evidence in the GOP memo, Kerr wrote.

An attorney who has appeared before the FISA court and believes the public should have confidence in the surveillance of Page said amici should be used more often.

“Thus far, the amici have been underutilized by the lower court — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — but appropriately utilized by the Court of Review, which has appointed amici in each case before it since the statute was passed,” the attorney said.

The attorney, who asked not to be named, said the public should trust the FISC process involving Page, citing the role of many Justice Department officials and FISC judges. The attorney alleged a malicious effort to “undermine public trust in these institutions,” but said “appointing amicus should provide an additional defense against such claims.”

In late December, Cline — a prominent attorney in national defense cases, helping represent Iran Contra figure Oliver North, accused Chinese spy Wen Ho Lee, and Dick Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby — quit his position as a FISC adviser, writing that in more than two years he had never been asked by the court or its appellate body to weigh in on a case.

In his resignation letter, Cline wrote that he believed some of the other amici were also never asked for input and the rest weighed in on “only a small handful of matters.”

“I am concerned that my continued service as amicus might create the impression that I am participating in the courts’ work, when in fact I am not,” he wrote.

“I hope that, whatever else comes of the controversy over the Page FISC order, it will introduce some appropriate transparency into the FISA process,” Cline told the Examiner. “Congress should exercise greater public oversight over the FISA process, consistent with legitimate national security concerns; and ... the FISC — or Congress, if the FISC declines to act — should expand the role of amici curiae."

Although Cline said he could imagine objecting to the legal basis for surveilling Page, he said the fact that court files remain classified makes it difficult to say for sure.

“It’s hard to know for sure what arguments were available because we haven’t seen the full [Page warrant] application — only the [House Intelligence Committee] majority’s interpretation of portions of it,” Cline said. “Once the [committee] minority memo is out — assuming President Trump releases it — we’ll have a better idea what the Page FISA application actually contained and what arguments an amicus could have made against issuance of the FISA order.”

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), introduced the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act that will save lives by fighting the spread of fentanyl analogues. Specifically, the bill adds nineteen identified fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I drug list and provides the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with the tools needed to quickly add other analogues as they are identified. 

Sensenbrenner: “With the opioid crisis tearing apart families across Wisconsin and the U.S., we must ramp up efforts to stop the proliferation of these drugs. This important legislation closes the loophole that allows these deadly drugs to continue pouring into our neighborhoods. It also provides law enforcement with the necessary tools to more effectively identify and schedule new fentanyl analogues. As Co-chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to end this epidemic.”

Background on the SOFA Act:

Fentanyl is currently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance used to treat cancer patients. However, it is dangerous and can be lethal outside of the careful supervision of a doctor. Fentanyl abuse is one of the leading contributors to the opioid epidemic.

A new chemical compound, known as an analogue, is created by modifying one small piece of the chemical structure of fentanyl. These compounds fall into a legal loophole and contribute to the alarming rate of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. In fact, data from the Center for Disease Control (see below) indicates that synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl and its analogues, are the leading cause of drug overdoses.

Analogue producers are likely to continue developing new variations, and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to adapt to these changes. Under current law, DEA scheduling practices are reactive in nature. Typically, fentanyl analogues are only scheduled after they have resulted in deaths across multiples states.

The SOFA Act closes the legal loophole by adding nineteen known fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I list. It also gives the DEA the authority to immediately schedule new fentanyl analogues as they are discovered, making enforcement and scheduling procedures more proactive.

The bill shares the acronym of an organization started by Oconomowoc, WI resident Lauri Badura, who lost her son Archie to an overdose in 2014. Shortly after, she founded the faith-based non-profit Saving Others for Archie, Inc. to raise awareness and fight the opioid epidemic.

Lauri recently attended President Trump’s first State of the Union address as the guest of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has introduced the Senate Version of SOFA.

The full text of H.R. 4922, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act is available here.

Note: Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Johnson’s bills differ in the number of fentanyl analogues immediately scheduled.

Washington, DCCongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) released the following statement after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public a previously classified memorandum about potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

Sensenbrenner: “Transparency is necessary for our system of checks and balances. I am glad that the American people can now read this memo for themselves. This document raises many questions and concerns about the intelligence community’s use of FISA and Congress’s oversight of those powers. As Congress continues to investigate this matter, it is important for the Executive Branch to be fully cooperative. The American people must know the facts surrounding the FBI and DOJ obtaining a FISA warrant and to what extent relevant information was purposefully withheld from FISC judges.”

He added: “I have been a leader in the debate about safeguarding the rights of Americans against surveillance abuses by the government. While I am confident in the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agents, we must remain vigilant in protecting the privacy rights of Americans.”