Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
Houma Courier/The Daily Comet on the Louisiana Legislature’s recent special session:
It’s difficult to find enough substance in the results of the state legislative session that ended Oct. 23 to justify lawmakers’ time and taxpayers’ money.
It was understandable lawmakers would convene the session that started Sept. 28. Many wanted to vent the frustration they were hearing from constituents about restrictions Gov. John Bel Edwards has placed on business and social activity in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Lawmakers said they wanted to limit the governor’s ability to enact such restrictions, or at least get a bigger seat at the table as decisions are made. But they ended up with neither.
Their most significant measure would let the House and Senate, by majority vote, nullify some of the governor’s public health emergency orders. Edwards has said he will veto the bill.
Meanwhile, the last-ditch petition lawmakers sent the governor Oct. 23, which would overturn Edwards COVID emergency order altogether, will likely end up in court.
Maybe such partisan wrangling between the Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor was inevitable during a pandemic that requires Edwards and other political leaders to balance the desire to keep a deadly virus at bay with people’s need to make a living. Conflicts have inevitably erupted not just in Louisiana but around the world over how to best deal with such consequential, life-and-death matters.
Maybe the Legislature has more leverage than it appears. Maybe it will override Edwards’ veto and win any court battles that result over the power dispute.
As it stands, however, Edwards has the proverbial high ground. All along he has made it clear he is following guidelines set forth by the White House coronavirus task force, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the state Health Department in enacting and enforcing the COVID restrictions. Days before the session began, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, described the statewide mask mandate, limitations on bars and other restrictions as appropriate to combat the deadly virus, praising the state’s success.
Edwards can also point to the results: Louisiana has gone from one of the worst outbreaks in the nation to having one of the lowest percentages of positive COVID test results of any state.
In the end, the results fail to justify the $40,000 per a day taxpayers spent so lawmakers could gather for almost a month in Baton Rouge. The problems are massive, but the results they produced do little to either solve them or change their course for the better.
Lawmakers are going to need a better plan if they want the input they say they aren’t getting when it comes to managing the pandemic. After the latest session, it’s hard to believe there was any plan at all.
The Advocate on southwest Louisiana's continued recovery from multiple hurricanes:
For Nic Hunter, the young and relatively new mayor of Lake Charles, there is work aplenty. His city and the entire region of southwest Louisiana has been pummeled not just by one monster hurricane, but another making landfall only about 20 miles from the previous spot.
And he’s worried a smaller city in Louisiana won’t get the help desperately needed.
“I am begging, I am pleading for Americans not to forget Lake Charles,” he told National Public Radio.
We share his concern, as this is one of the worst years possible to have the woes inflicted on the Lake Charles region. We live in an America distracted by the coronavirus pandemic and one of the most divisive elections in a long time. The national bandwidth has also been taken up with wildfires in California and other West Coast states.
At the same time, we have faith that help will be coming. As if in answer to Hunter’s plea, one of the leading national newspapers profiled the struggles of Calcasieu and Cameron parish residents.
“I want people to know that we’re not OK, we’re not back to normal,” said Hunter, who has been mayor since 2017, to The New York Times. “We’re going to do our part. We’re not just sitting on our butts with our hands out, saying, ‘Come do this for me.’ The extent of this catastrophe rises to a level where if it’s going to fall only on locals to help locals, we’re going to be in the thick of recovery much longer than we need to be.”
It’s good exposure for the nation to learn what all of us in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have known about hurricanes’ devastation. “For many residents, life is now consumed by discomfort and distress,” the Times reported. “Days are spent negotiating bureaucracies for insurance help and government aid, cleaning ravaged homes and businesses and wading through the traffic jams of displaced residents.”
A national commitment to restore this region of the state is needed and there have been efforts led by Gov. John Bel Edwards and federal authorities to marshal governmental help. Private companies and some major charities have given six- or seven-figure contributions to the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana and the region’s United Way.
One of the most touching was an envelope from New York with no note, just three $1 bills for the community foundation. Not the biggest gift but emblematic of caring, and that’s something that we should cling to, even as in Louisiana we seek to mobilize every possible assistance for a region hammered by these storms.
American Press on how to avoid scams as the election approaches:
Scammers are using the presidential election as a way to get personal information on individuals who are being advised to be wary of emails they receive. A Harvard University graduate got an email from a PAC (political action committee), but wasn’t scammed because she Googled the name of the PAC and it didn’t exist.
The student told The Associated Press, “There was not a trace of them. It was a very inconspicuous email, but I noticed it used very emotional language, and that set off alarm bells.” She deleted the email and used social media to warn others.
The AP said American voters face an especially pivotal, polarized election this year, and scammers from everywhere are posing as fundraisers and pollsters, impersonating candidates and campaigns, and launching fake voter registration drives.
Warnings are coming from the FBI, the Better Business Bureau and cyber security experts. A Maryland chief security officer with ZeroFox said, “Psychologically, these scams play to our desire to do something — to get involved, to donate, to take action.”
The security officer said online grifters regularly shift tactics to fit current events, whether they are natural disasters, a pandemic or an election. “Give them something to work with and they’ll find a way to make a dollar,” he said.
The AP said foreign adversaries like Russia, China and Iran get much of the blame for creating fake social media accounts and spreading deceptive information, primarily because Russia was linked to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They do it using fake social media accounts, realistic looking websites and suspicious links.
The FBI said complaints to its cybercrime-reporting site jumped from 1,000 a day to 3,000-4,000 a day since the pandemic began. The quickly approaching election is giving them another opportunity to try and make money.
The chief marketing officer for the Better Business Bureau said, “Every election is heated, but this one is very much so. People are more trusting when they see it’s a political party or a candidate they like emailing them.”
Investigators at ZeroFOX routinely scan dark corners of the internet to identify threats against its customers. They found a large cache of personal data like phone numbers, ages and other information for sale during the summer.
Voters are being advised to be cautious before donating to any group that reaches out by email or text. They should check the group’s website or look to see if it is registered as a charity or campaign.
For those anxious to help others, the best advice from scam investigators is to, “Take a few minutes and do a little homework.”