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Update: Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of “Diet Sodas Cause Weight Gain” Class Action

WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:26am
Last May on the eve of Memorial Day, we wrote about a Southern District of New York decision dismissing a class action against Pepsi-Cola. On Friday, March 15, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a Summary Order (which has no precedential value) affirming the lower court’s decision. …

Continue reading Update: Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of “Diet Sodas Cause Weight Gain” Class Action

Categories: Latest News

This Justin: Timberlake Out of Suit but False-Labeling Action against Bai Beverage Mostly Survives

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 1:29pm
Here at the WLF Legal Pulse, we routinely discuss class-action lawsuits filed against consumer-product makers, especially those who manufacture packaged foods. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have been clogging the aisles of grocery stores for years dissecting food labels for any possible regulatory misstep and perhaps signing up new clients in the process. We could write far more …

Continue reading This Justin: Timberlake Out of Suit but False-Labeling Action against Bai Beverage Mostly Survives

Categories: Latest News

Wicker Convenes Hearing on U.S. Leadership in Space

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier.” The hearing discussion focused on the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space, ensuring space industry competitiveness, and addressing challenges to America’s spacefaring preeminence.

“Flipping the Switch on Rural Digital Entrepreneurship”

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:30am

The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, “Flipping the Switch on Rural Digital Entrepreneurship.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:30 A.M. on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

According to U.S. Census data, only 17 percent of businesses are located in rural areas despite 97 percent of the nation being classified as rural. Digital tools have changed the way many rural entrepreneurs are starting and growing their business. By embracing digital engagement, Main Street firms are experiencing greater sales both locally and globally. Yet, rural entrepreneurs still face challenges in fully utilizing digital technologies. The hearing will review the opportunities online technology holds and examine the barriers rural small businesses face in fully embracing it.


Hearing Notice 

Witnesses 

Mr. Dana F. Connors 
President & CEO
Maine State Chamber of Commerce
Augusta, ME
*Testifying on behalf of the Maine State Chamber

Mr. Jake Ward
President
Connected Commerce Council 
Washington, DC


*Witness testimony will be posted within 24 hours after the hearing’s occurrence

Witness List
 

The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The hearing will discuss the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space, ensuring space industry competitiveness, and addressing challenges to spacefaring preeminence.

<p>CANTWELL: Thank you, Chairman Wicker

CANTWELL: Thank you, Chairman Wicker. And thank you for holding today’s hearing on maintaining U.S. leadership in space. Obviously this year, 2019, astronauts will be returning to the International Space Station from America’s soil for the first time in nearly a decade. And just last week, SpaceX successfully completed an un-crewed demonstration launch to the International Space Station. Space tourism is just around the corner, and Virgin Galactic recently completed a piloted mission; we expect to see Blue Origin flying people in the very near future. In the chairman’s statement, he talked about Mississippi and NASA and how they will complete the final tests on the Space Launch System; the most powerful rocket built in advance of the 2020 mission.

As we look at these accomplishments and hear about our commercial space mission this morning, we also need to look at the challenges of maintaining our leadership role. Other nations are maturing their space capabilities and could – and the United States need to keep pace. I appreciate the administration’s focus on maintaining the nation’s focus on space, but the budget request they put forward undermines this goal. We need to make sure that there are resources and the budget seems to cut some of the very programs we need to keep this leadership.

A prime example is the International Space Station. It has been successful and other countries are developing their own space stations. So we see the administration proposing ending funding for the space station by 2025, so maybe the witnesses can speak to that today. Standing up commercial space capabilities takes a long time, and after years of longer initial planning by the commercial crew program, we need to continue these efforts. We cannot have a gap in what is the space capabilities as other nations are looking in the same area.

The administration’s proposed budget cuts are concerning on a number of fronts. For starters, cutting funding to the enhanced upper stage, the component of space launch systems that will enable long term goals of the program, is problematic. Also, the administration is proposing to cancel the Earth Science Mission and zero out the funding of the Office of STEM Engagement. NASA is uniquely positioned to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and canceling relatively low-dollar education programs, I think, is short sighted.

So all of these cuts, I’m sure last year Congress rejected most of them, I expect that Congress will see the wisdom of rejecting them again. Nonetheless, it is important to bring up that we have to make the right prioritization of these programs if we want to continue these missions going forward. So I look forward to discussing these this morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you again for calling the hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses in their leadership role on these important issues.

<p>This morning we will deal with the

This morning we will deal with the new space race. In his famous 1962 speech announcing that the United States would land on the Moon by decade’s end, President John F. Kennedy said, “no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.” Those words hold true today.

We are delighted to have two witnesses who are helping to ensure that the United States maintains global leadership in space:

  • The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • And Mr. Kevin O’Connell, Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce

We are grateful to have you here and thank you presence, looking forward to your testimony.

2019 is an exciting year for space. July 20thwill mark the 50thanniversary of the NASA Apollo-11 mission — I was in a dormitory in Oxford, Mississippi on that particular date, hard to believe — which landed humans on the Moon and fulfilled President Kennedy’s bold vision for human space exploration.

By year’s end, NASA Commercial Crew program will be launching American astronauts, from American soil, and by American companies.

NASA’s flagship human exploration program — the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft — will likely achieve a number of milestones this year, including the core stage assembly and integration. That would be followed by test firing the core stage at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The dedicated workforce and testing assets at Stennis show the importance of maintaining national space infrastructure and programs.  

We’ve entered into a new space race. This race is different from the one America won fifty years ago. The new space race has three dimensions:

First, the United States must maintain its position as the international “partner of choice” for current and aspiring spacefaring nations. Strengthening international partnerships through cooperation on space endeavors enhances our prestige around the world. The International Space Station is a key part of U.S. global leadership, but NASA’s FY 2020 budget request proposes to end funding for the ISS in 2025.

Witnesses should detail opportunities to enhance space partnerships with other nations and demonstrate how the budget request supports those efforts.

Secondly, America must maintain our position as the focal point for space commerce. We want space companies to be established and continue to grow in the United States. The global space industry is expected to grow from around $400 billion today to nearly $3 trillion over the next two decades.  

President Trump has supported the commercial space industry through policies to streamline regulations for launch, remote sensing, spectrum usage, and export control. In particular, I commend the Vice President’s leadership of the National Space Council, which has achieved interagency consensus on critical issues and provided bold and clear direction on space policy. 

Perhaps Mr. O’Connell will address the current state of the industry and provide the committee with a progress report on meeting various Space Policy Directives to promote the commercial space industry. Administrator Bridenstine should also address NASA’s role in partnering with commercial providers and growing the industry. 

And third, as competition in commercial space heats up, we must stay ahead of rising space powers, notably China. Maintaining America’s position as the preeminent spacefaring nation is the final dimension of the new space race.

China’s space program could represent a significant challenge to American leadership in space. A recent Defense Intelligence Agency report noted that China’s space program “supports both civil and military interests.”  

In January, China became the first country to explore the far side of the Moon. By 2025, China plans to complete its satellite navigation system rival to GPS, launch a rover to Mars, operationalize a space station, and begin building a Moon base, among other ambitions.  

President Trump has provided clear direction for NASA to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration to enable human expansion across the solar system.” He is right.

I hope our witnesses will tell the committee how America can maintain an edge over foreign space programs and show how the budget request will help sustain American leadership in space.    

It is essential that we have consistency in policy, stable and sufficient funding, and a robust set of international and commercial partnerships to achieve these goals.

Against a backdrop of international competition and a burgeoning space industry, the stakes articulated by President Kennedy more than half a century ago are even higher today. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help sustain America’s space leadership and chief among those are my friend and our Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell. 

Wicker and Sinema Announce Net Neutrality Working Group

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Kyrsten Sinema D-Ariz., announced a bipartisan working group focused on crafting a net neutrality proposal to encourage innovation, boost investment, and close the digital divide.

“The mission of this working group will be to put partisan politics aside in order to provide permanent internet protections,” said Wicker. “We need clear rules of the road that prohibit providers from blocking or throttling access to lawful content and provide transparency and consumer choice. We invite our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort.”

“Net neutrality is critical to maintaining a vibrant internet. We need a modern, internet-specific framework that encourages the freedom and innovation that make the internet the vital tool it is today—and consumers and providers need stability. We will only achieve those goals by working across party lines to find a bipartisan solution,” said Sinema.

Wicker Announces Hearing on Aviation Safety

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statements about the plane crash that took place in Ethiopia, and announced a hearing on aviation safety.

“Challenges in SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program.”

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 10:00am

The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship will meet for a hearing titled, “Challenges in SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The hearing will review the state of the SBA State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 directed SBA to establish the program to provide grants to states to increase the number of small businesses exploring trade opportunities. Members will hear how the SBA is performing in its management of the program along with compliance and grant challenges facing states and small businesses.


Hearing Notice 

Witnesses 

Ms. Kim Gianopoulos
Director of International Affairs and Trade
Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC
Testimony 

Mr. Hannibal “Mike” Ware
Inspector General
United States Small Business Administration
Washington, DC
Testimony


*Witness testimony will be posted within 24 hours after the hearing’s occurrence

Witness List
 

The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America

U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, will convene a hearing titled, “The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. The hearing will focus on the Federal Communications Commission’s order to improve the quality and expand availability of rural broadband. The subcommittee will also discuss opportunities and investments to support carriers in rural America, efforts to prevent overbuilding among federal broadband programs, and the next steps to close the digital divide.

Subcommittee Announces Hearing on China Challenges for U.S. Commerce

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, chairman of the Subcommittee on Security, will convene a hearing titled, “China: Challenges for U.S. Commerce,” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 7, 2019. The subcommittee hearing will examine the security implications of China's harmful practices in the marketplace, including issues of manufacturing competitiveness, intellectual property challenges, data localization requirements, standards-setting, and cybersecurity threats.

Small but Mighty: A Review of the SBA Microloan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 10:00am

The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access will meet for a hearing titled, “Small but Mighty: A Review of the SBA Microloan Program.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, March 7, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Microloan program has been in existence for over 20 years, and in that time, it has made a significant impact enhancing access to capital for America’s smallest businesses. In that time, the program has grown from a pilot program to a fully permanent program with success stories nationwide. However, for all the growth that the program has experienced, many of the rules governing it have not kept up with its growth. The hearing will review the program, how it functions, and explore what changes to the program would maximize its performance and efficiency.


Hearing Notice 

Witnesses 

Ms. Ceyl Prinster
President & CEO
Colorado Enterprise Fund
Denver, CO
Testimony 

Ms. Carolina Martinez 
CEO
California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity
San Francisco, CA
Testimony 

Ms. Mariama Jallow
Owner
Mariama's Beauty Supply
Portland, ME
Testimony 

Ms. Michelle Richards
Executive Director
Great Lakes Women's Business Council
Livonia, MI
*Testifying on behalf of Women Impacting Public Policy
Testimony


*Witness testimony will be posted within 24 hours after the hearing’s occurrence

Witness List
 


<p>That is why we call them the Seattle

That is why we call them the Seattle Mariners, by the way.

Thank you, Chairman Wicker, and thank you for holding this important hearing today, and welcome to the witnesses. Thank you for being here to bring more attention to the needs of investment in our maritime sector. I’m happy to welcome our witness from Washington, Ms. Eriksson. Thank you so much for being here. You’ve been part of the maritime economy in our state for a long time and representing the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific today, we thank you for that. I know we are going to talk about workforce, the chairman mentioned it, but I’m sure you’ll bring a particular perspective to that in your testimony.

The United States maritime transportation system is critical to our nation’s economy and to our security. With 90% of overseas trade entering or leaving the U.S. by ship, contributing $650 billion annually to our GDP, this is a very important part of our economy, with 13 million jobs nationwide. The large freight network supports more than 40 million jobs nationwide. And these jobs fuel an entire economy, supporting trade and the movements of goods. In the state of Washington, we know this because we have nearly 70,000 direct jobs – the chairman mentioned the indirect jobs also associated with that sector – and so you see the large economic footprint that we’ve had in the past. So whether it’s ports connecting to freight corridors, warehouse sector, maritime ship building, cruise operations – we know the value of the maritime sector in the state of Washington.

But despite the importance of the movement of freight and investing in freight infrastructure, that investment continues to lag. According to the National Association of Manufactures 2019 Building to Win report, more than 70% of manufactures do not believe our infrastructure can respond to the competitive needs of a growing economy. Americans are losing thousands of dollars every year because of crumbling infrastructure, and the American Society of Civil Engineers rates our infrastructure at D+. Accordingly, the World Economic Forum report ranks the United States 9th in infrastructure quality.

Other countries know the importance of infrastructure investment, and we need to keep pace. The 2015 FAST Act took a big step to addressing our freight infrastructure challenges with a multi-modal freight program, and I thank Senator Thune and others for helping to get that done. However, we need to do more in this area. We must support our domestic maritime industry with a strong U.S. maritime workforce. I look forward to working with the Chairman on this particular issue.

The mariners are a special part of our economy, and they are critical to meeting our transportation needs and our military needs. In recent years, the merchant marine has also provided essential support for the Department of Defense missions during devastating storms, like Hurricane Katrina, Rita, and Superstorm Sandy. But, despite the benefits the merchant marine has provided, it’s at a crossroads. The U.S. flag fleet has experienced a decline, and we are facing serious shortage of mariners. And we need to make sure that we are making the investment in the workforce of mariners a key priority.

In addition to the strong support of the Jones Act, this committee should considers supporting investments in vessel recapitalization programs. The Pacific Northwest fishing fleet has begun efforts to rebuild its vessels in American shipyards, which supports thousands of jobs and, obviously, rebuilding and capitalization of both the Coast Guard and NOAA fleets, is another big area of infrastructure need that we need for our workforce.

One particular point I want to make is that while we have secured the first heavy polar icebreaker funding in decades, I want us to authorize even more. It’s imperative that our nation understand that we are an artic nation. That this is an entirely new transportation path with many opportunities for us to forge new relationships. But to do that, we will have to have an icebreaking fleet. So I look forward to working on that issue with many of my colleges on this committee.

The United States must also provide certainty for our workforce by developing a national maritime strategy that identifies the increase in the availability of U.S. ships to ensure mariners and qualified women are there to help with the challenges of increasing cargo and capacity. We must continue to bolster and support the ship building industry on this infrastructure issue, which I know many of the witnesses will address today. 

So, Mr. Chairman, whether it’s developing the workforce, focusing on infrastructure, supporting shipyards, supporting the Coast Guard, or new shipbuilding for the fishing sector, I know there is a lot that our committee can do to help this particular sector of the US economy. So I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and looking forward to suggestions on how we can help this transportation sector of our economy.

Committee Announces Hearing on U.S. Leadership in Space

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The hearing will discuss the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space, ensuring space industry competitiveness, and addressing challenges to spacefaring preeminence.

Wicker Convenes Hearing on American Maritime Industry

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “The State of the American Maritime Industry.” The hearing focused on the current state of the domestic maritime industry in anticipation of the fiscal year 2020 budget request and discussed priorities for the Coast Guard and Maritime Administration reauthorization bills.

<p>We convene this morning to hear

We convene this morning to hear testimony on the state of the American maritime industry. We are delighted to have five witnesses who reflect the breadth of this industry:

  • With Mr. Matthew Woodruff, President of the American Maritime Partnership;
  • Mr. Thomas Allegretti, President of the American Waterways Operators;
  • Mr. Matthew Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America;
  • Mr. Austin Golding, President of Golding Barge Line, based in Vicksburg, Mississippi, with 225 employees in 11 states. I note that Mr. Golding is joined by his family today and the Mayor of Vicksburg, the Honorable George Flaggs is with us too for support for the maritime cause;
  • And Ms. Berit Eriksson, Workforce Development Director for the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific.

We are grateful that all of you are able to be with us today and we look forward to your testimony.

The economic and national security of our country depends on a healthy maritime industry. Indeed, our country’s independence can be tied to the success of private colonial ships and merchant seamen that were authorized by General Washington to prevent British ships from delivering arms and ammunition.

Today, maritime freight transportation supports about $4.6 trillion in annual economic activity and the maritime industry supports 650,000 U.S. jobs. According to the Transportation Institute, 22,500 jobs in Washington State and 13,400 jobs in Mississippi are dependent on various elements of the American maritime industry.

Over 1.3 billion metric tons of waterborne merchandise is imported to, and exported from, the United States each year. And almost that much cargo is carried on the 25,000 miles of inland waterways.

Equally important to the economic benefits, a strong domestic maritime industry is essential to national security. 

DOD relies heavily on U.S.-flagged commercial vessels and civilian mariners to meet its sealift requirements. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration are critical components to all of our defense and maritime functions and the committee will be working to reauthorize these agencies.

Federal law supports a strong domestic maritime industry. Notably, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 – better known as the Jones Act – requires that vessels transporting goods between two U.S. points be American-built, owned, crewed, and flagged.

Today, over 41,000 Jones Act-qualified vessels operate in the domestic trades. Properly enforcing the Jones Act is important for economic and national security.

I recently sent a letter to the President – along with several colleagues on this committee – to express support for the Jones Act and to encourage the administration to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss how the domestic maritime industry can meet new demands and serve new markets.

The American shipbuilding industrial base is capable of building the vessels necessary to carry the nation’s abundant energy resources – such as LNG and other fossil fuels – anywhere in the world.

Becoming more internationally competitive is important to secure the industry’s future. Currently, there are only 81 U.S.-flagged ships operating exclusively in international trade, carrying less than two percent of the nation’s annual foreign trade. 

This is troubling from a national security perspective because sufficient U.S.-flagged ships and mariners must be available to meet national defense requirements. 

As to workforce, MARAD estimates a shortfall of 1,800 qualified mariners needed to sustain a prolonged military sealift mobilization. As a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, I would note that Jack Buono was recently named Superintendent there and is working to recruit and train mariners to fill this shortfall. We wish the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and other training academies well.

In that regard, let me express my support for the Trump Administration’s new initiative to help active-duty military and veterans transition to maritime careers. The initiative will build on the successful Military to Mariner program managed by the Coast Guard and MARAD. 

During today’s hearing, I hope witnesses will address issues such as:

  • The laws and regulations affecting the operation and competitiveness of industry; 
  • The current and future impact of the Vessel Incident Discharge Act, legislation that many of us sponsored last Congress was included in the 2018 Coast Guard Reauthorization bill. Like so many issues, getting VIDA signed into law would not have been possible without the coordination of the committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell. And I also salute the efforts of Senator Sullivan in this regard.

Also, members might want to comment on strategies to grow the maritime workforce and improve education and training programs.

America is a maritime nation. We have a distinguished history of using our abundant maritime resources to expand commerce and protect our country. A strong merchant marine, ship building, and maritime industrial base are the marks of a great power. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure America’s maritime industry has a vibrant future. 

And I now turn, to my friend, the Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell, from another great coastal state.

Rebuilding America: Small Business Perspective

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 11:00am

The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, “Rebuilding America: Small Business Perspective.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.


The hearing will focus on our current infrastructure needs and how small businesses can stand to benefit from a comprehensive plan that includes surface, broadband, and water, among others. The hearing will give Members an opportunity to hear from a variety of witnesses regarding the importance of updating our nation’s infrastructure, while discussing the opportunities and challenges that exist for small businesses.

Hearing Notice 

Witnesses 

Ms. Terri Williams
Director
SBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center
San Antonio, TX
Testimony 

Mr. Tim Donovan
Senior Vice President
Legislative Affairs
Competitive Carriers Association
Washington, DC
Testimony 

Ms. Roseline Bougher
President
A.D. Marble
King of Prussia, PA
Testimony 


*Witness testimony will be posted within 24 hours after the hearing’s occurrence

Witness List
 



Budget Views and Estimates for Fiscal Year 2020

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:45am
The Committee on Small Business will convene for a meeting to consider the Committee’s Budget Views and Estimates for Fiscal Year 2020. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:45 A.M. on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. 

Notice 

Budget Views and Estimates for Fiscal Year 2020 

The State of the American Maritime Industry

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The State of the American Maritime Industry,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. The hearing will focus on the current state of the domestic maritime industry in anticipation of the FY20 budget request and discuss priorities for the Coast Guard and MARAD reauthorization bills.

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