- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Jan. 21

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on ‘no go zone’:

We don’t know for a fact that there are “no-go” zones in Britain or elsewhere in Europe where radical Muslim immigrants seek to keep police out.

Nor does Gov. Bobby Jindal know anything like that for a fact, but based on a story he heard about in a sensationalist British newspaper, he made “no-go” zones into a controversy.

We wonder if this kind of fact-famished scandal-mongering is going to be confused with leadership in next year’s presidential primaries.

British authorities are not amused.

A description of Birmingham as a “no-go” zone was uttered by a guest commentator on Fox News, the reliable organ of the U.S. Republican Party. After Birmingham’s citizens lit up social media in complaint, Steve Emerson apologized abjectly.

The Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, called Emerson a “complete idiot.” No word yet on his view of our governor, who apparently is better informed about conditions in Britain than the PM.

Louisiana’s cousins in Paris were similarly upset.

Jindal spoke to a conservative foreign policy group in London about no-go zones, describing them as neighborhoods where countries abandon authority to Muslim immigrants who enforce religious laws such as making women wear veils.

When challenged by CNN, Jindal said he had met with “elected officials and others” to discuss them and cited a report in the tabloid Daily Mail about challenges to police authority in no-go zones.

The Daily Mail is more than a bit hysterical on the subject of immigration and Muslims, so the governor’s source is unlikely to be persuasive in Britain.

For what it’s worth, we agree with the larger point that Jindal was making, that terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam ought to be denounced by responsible Muslim leaders. But as the PM and foreign reporters are now learning, our governor tends to shoot first and check facts later, if at all.

The rhetorical irresponsibility that he has demonstrated in this episode is old hat in the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. With a presidential campaign in view, Jindaldata can now reach a wider public.

But if the London speech was intended to burnish the governor’s credentials in foreign policy, the offense given to British authorities seems not a very good result.




Jan. 16

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on contracts worthy of consideration:

When the Louisiana Legislature meets this year, it will likely have a chance to enact legislation that would direct some contracts for state services to Louisiana state colleges and universities at a time when they need a boost.

That sounds like a good idea and should be seriously considered.

State Treasurer John Kennedy is proposing the measure as a way to overcome concern about non-government organizations (NGOs) handling state contracts. This would also be a way of providing more money for cash-strapped colleges and universities.

“It would solve a problem for the state and help our universities at the same time,” Kennedy said.

Higher education leaders are backing the idea.

The issue came up at a recent meeting of the Board of Regents, where Chairman Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry said he would be in support of it. LSU leaders also have said the university would welcome an opportunity to tap into state contracts.

Kennedy, who is a critic of NGOs, has been a proponent of greater oversight of those groups.

He sees this proposal as a virtual win-win: giving more money to higher education while strengthening state services that often are federally funded social programs.

Strategy sessions have been held among system leaders and state officials, and the university systems’ boards already are bracing for a grim budget picture for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Kennedy said he’s been in talks with several legislators who support the idea, but he wasn’t ready to name a likely sponsor.

The state funnels millions through dozens of NGOs each year, often tucked into the capital outlay budget.

“The state spends tens of millions of dollars of mostly federal money - some of it’s state money, but a big chunk is federal money - with nongovernmental organizations to provide certain social services,” Kennedy said. “It’s taxpayer money.”

They take on several tasks, from after-school tutoring programs to job counseling.

“We’re ignoring some of the greatest assets and a great deal of expertise we have in our state,” Kennedy said. “If we spend $100 million on after-school tutoring, which we all agree is a good thing, we should be measuring the progress.”

NGOs long have faced criticism in Louisiana as serving as pet projects for some legislators. Kennedy has become the latest outspoken critic, raising concerns over their effectiveness.

He was careful to note that he doesn’t think all of them are questionable, but he said some of them are less clear about what work they do, and a lot of money goes to salaries rather than services.

This is a good idea and may aid our colleges and universities at a time they really need a boost.




Jan. 18

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on Camp Minden:

A flurry of grassroots activity last week bought a little more time for the disposal of the 15 million pounds of explosive material stored at Camp Minden. On Thursday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office granted a 90-day extension of the compliance order requiring the disposal of the M6 propellant.

It just goes to show that when concerned citizens join forces, change can happen. And in this case, even a small change is a victory.

The key contention for many concerned citizens and lawmakers from the region has been the approved method for getting rid of the material. An open tray burn method was specified in an October agreement between the EPA, the Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army and the Louisiana Military Department. Disposal was scheduled to begin this spring after bidding for the project that was to wrap up on Jan. 21.

The site has been a thorn in the side of the state since 2012 when an explosion in one of Explo Systems Inc.’s leased bunkers rocked the area, rattling homes in Doyline, shattering windows in Minden four miles away, and creating a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud. A subsequent investigation by state police found the millions of pounds of propellant stored in 98 bunkers scattered around Camp Minden. M6 is used as an explosive propellant for launching artillery shells. The Army sold the M6 to Explo for demilitarization. In 2013 Explo went bankrupt, abandoning the material.

Although other methods, including enclosed incineration, were examined initially, there has been little information offered about what potential impact there might be when it comes to health and environment. It seems they may have been waiting for those studies to come after a test open burn was performed last month without public notification.

To us, this whole process seems kind of backward coming from an agency supposedly looking out for our health and environmental interests. Deciding upon a disposal method before knowing the potential impact is wrong.

According to state Rep. Gene Reynolds of Minden, the EPA cannot say its process is safe because the amount of material scheduled to be burned (about 80,000 pounds a day) has never been done before. “They kept saying it was safe but gave no proof,” he said following a meeting with them last week.

Make no mistake, we are as eager as the state is to get rid of this M6 which experts say is becoming more and more unstable and susceptible to another possible explosion this summer, but we need to do it in the safest, cleanest manner possible.

The question we must now clear up is do we have that in the open tray burn? We’re not so sure based on recent commentaries from LSU-Shreveport chemistry professor Brian A. Salvatore and Bob Flournoy, an environmental toxicologist and former Louisiana Tech professor.

They both raise some ominous questions about the chosen method of disposal for the M6. We too believe the option for a closed incineration needs more exploration.

During November’s public meeting on the issue in Minden, EPA regional Superfund director Carl Edlund assured those in attendance the controlled open burn is the least expensive and safest way. He said it was a standard recommended disposal approach that would be safe with little impact on the environment. Fleming raises another interesting question in regards to that. About money.

“I’m not buying it. My intuition tells me the issue here is money,” he said. “If the EPA is working with the Army to do the cheapest method and not the safest method, I’ll be very disappointed.”

The Army has already sent the state $20 million to pay for the disposal.

So the real question we should be asking is are we getting our money’s worth?



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