- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Dec. 9

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Bill Cassidy election victory:

Maybe the experts will call it winning ugly, but the more than 700,000 votes amassed by U.S. Senator-elect Bill Cassidy are by any measure a landslide.

As closely divided as Americans are on many issues, and with a sharp racial divide in Louisiana politics in particular, almost anything over 52 or 53 percent can be considered a handsome win, and Cassidy won with 56 percent.

For Cassidy, the victory comes after a bruising campaign against three-term incumbent Mary Landrieu, whose relentless pursuit of re-election failed to beat back a nationwide Republican tide evidenced in GOP wins across the nation in November.

The scope of that earlier election means that Cassidy, a congressman from Baton Rouge, will join a new GOP majority in the Senate. As part of the pre-election maneuvering, he was promised a seat on the Energy Committee, which Landrieu headed in the last Congress and which is of obvious importance to one of Louisiana’s core industries.

That was not all that was settled in Saturday’s runoff.

Two other Republican members of Congress were elected. Garret Graves, the former coastal czar for Gov. Bobby Jindal, will be Cassidy’s replacement in the House. Graves starts out with experience as an aide in Congress, so he will be able to hit the ground running.

In northeastern Louisiana, Ralph Abraham, a physician - he will be the fourth among Louisiana’s eight congressmen and senators - won the seat lost in the primary by incumbent Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who was tarred by scandal.

Because of Louisiana’s weirdly drawn district lines, Abraham’s district reaches nearly south to Baton Rouge and across the Florida Parishes to Bogalusa. He will have his work cut out for him serving the various communities in the sprawling district.

We congratulate the victors and hope that the losers, particularly the tenacious Landrieu, can find some consolation in the battles they waged. Sharp elbows flew in the Senate race in particular. We are disappointed that there was little discussion of more Louisiana-specific issues, but the proof of Cassidy’s strategy was in the returns. He shrewdly stuck to his opposition to President Barack Obama and more general fealty to the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill.

After a decade in politics in the state Senate and then the U.S. House, Cassidy is no novice, but he will now be representing a diverse state that is a bigger challenge than his previous posts. He succeeds a senator and has a colleague in David Vitter, who are known for a ferocious work ethic. The new job is the big leagues by any standard.

We congratulate him on his victory.




Dec. 8

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs:

The Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs has come under fire in a legislative auditor’s report stating that the department lacks the leadership and oversight necessary to support the state’s elderly.

The report states the office needs an executive director to help guide its task force. Gov. Bobby Jindal has not filled the position since 2012 when he fired the office’s executive director, Martha Manuel. The firing came just one day after Manuel told lawmakers that the governor’s plan to merge the Office of Elderly Affairs into the state health department would hurt services for Louisiana’s senior citizens. The plan would never come into fruition.

On the heels of the report, the Governor’s Office defended the Elderly Affairs office, which caters to approximately 800,000 residents in Louisiana. The Jindal administration said it was approved by federal officials and didn’t need changing.

The Office of Elderly Affairs works alongside local senior centers, community service organizations and volunteer programs to provide assistance for the elderly through meals, transportation, counseling and care.

Auditors also showed that money earmarked to the office may not be going to the elderly in some parishes, especially the poorer ones.

“Having stronger and more consistent oversight and strategically using data to evaluate and manage would help (the agency) ensure that effective and relevant services are delivered to the increasing number of elderly in Louisiana,” reads the audit

The agency allocates $12,000 to each parish, then uses a formula to distribute the remaining funds. The formula considers how many elderly people there are in the parish, as well as the parish’s size and number of impoverished.

Louisiana voters in November did not approve a constitutional amendment that would have created a state Department of Elderly Affairs. The American Press endorsed the amendment to increase the number of state departments from 20 to 21. It would have helped the organization and made the state’s elderly a priority. However, there is always a stigma associated with a growing government. State legislators have said they will introduce legislation that will rectify the identified issues.

In the next legislative session, lawmakers must rally behind a bill that will rebrand the agency and alleviate frustrations for thousands of seniors in Louisiana.




Dec. 9

News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on the Orion spacecraft:

With elections and the Christmas holiday swirling around us last week, it might have been easy to miss a major event on Friday - the successful launch and return of NASA’s first Orion spacecraft. It was a proud moment not only for the nation’s space agency but for all American’s as we enter a new age in human space exploration that will eventually lead to manned missions to asteroids and Mars.

Orion launched early Friday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for a brief 4 1/2-hour journey that took it 3,604 miles above the planet, well beyond the domain of low-Earth orbit where we’ve been stuck for years during the space shuttle era. Indeed, it’s been 42 years since we’ve had a spacecraft designed for humans in this domain on a mission of exploration rather than experimentation. The last time we had a spacecraft in this region of space was the final moon mission, Apollo 17.

“We as a species are meant to press humanity further into the solar system, and this is a first step,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, in a NASA news release. “What a tremendous team effort.”

We agree, and hope Orion will eventually reignite a new spirit of discovery and invention among Americans not seen since the Apollo days that ultimately inspired a whole generation of young people to seek out careers in science and engineering.

According to NASA, Orion performed exceptionally well for a first mission. The cone-shaped craft (which on the outside is reminiscent of the Apollo craft) held up through the high radiation of the Van Allen belts before returning to the Earth at 20,000 mph riding a 4,000 degree F plasma field upon re-entry. Orion finally touched down about a mile from the landing location controllers predicted before launch, which was a statistical bulls-eye splashdown in the Pacific 270 miles west of Baja, California. Not bad targeting at all.

Orion will be transported to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers will gather more information on the systems the flight tested. Systems that will be critical to crew safety when the craft is finally manned, particularly key separation events like parachutes and heat shield integrity.

While Friday’s launch was aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket, it will eventually be paired with the Space Launched System. And our state has ties with that mission. Sections of NASA’s SLS are being built in the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Orion’s successful test flight is a proud moment for all Americans, but it’s actually just the beginning of a new era of not just space flight but actual space exploration. The Orion program calls for another unmanned test flight in 2018, launched by the new SLS rocket that will be powerful enough to fly Orion to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon for Exploration Mission-1. The first mission with a crew is expected no sooner than 2021.

“Now it’s time to go fly,” Geyer said.

Thanks to Orion, we believe NASA’s space program might one day return to the exciting track it was on during the Apollo days when spacecraft launches not only ignited the imaginations of a generation but captured the hearts, minds and attention of a nation. Go Orion team, go!



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