Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 30

The Savannah Morning News on Georgia's oyster industry:

Oysters are more than just tasty bivalves pulled from local waterways and enjoyed at local oyster roasts. They're potentially big business for Georgia.

Georgia's oysters naturally grow in dense clusters because of the muddy riverbeds that wind along the coast and that have brittle, razor-sharp edges. However, today's restaurants and discriminating diners prefer the large, deep, meaty oysters with rounded edges that are more easily shucked and served on the half-shell.

That's why the University of Georgia Oyster Hatchery on Skidaway Island, part of the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, has been laying the groundwork for a thriving oyster aquaculture industry in the Peach State This would allow harvesters to farm the more desirable three-inch single oysters that can be marketed to upscale restaurants.

Funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, the hatchery is a collaborative effort between UGA Marine Extension specialists, resource managers with the Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Shellfish Growers Association.

However, Georgia's oyster farming industry is, by any measure, still in its infancy. Without the proper support from legislators and from the private sector, it will never reach its full potential as an economic engine in coastal Georgia despite the fact that our waterways naturally support the growth of some of the nation's best-tasting oysters.

Aquaculture boom

America's largest shellfish farm, located in Washington state, sells 36 million oysters annually. A new initiative in Maryland aims to add 10 billion oysters to the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. In Virginia, state support has attracted private oyster growers, who transformed a $200,000 industry into a $30 million endeavor in a 10-year period.

Georgia is lagging far behind, with oyster sales totaling only $120,000 last year. However, experts estimate that the state's aquaculture business could potentially generate $5.25 million in oysters by 2022.

The biggest hurdle, it seems, is that Georgia is light years behind other states — like Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina — when it comes to implementing an aquaculture regulatory system. State laws are needed to ensure that Georgia's farmed oysters are safe to eat and that the local ecosystem is protected throughout the farming process. In order for Georgia's oyster farming industry to take off, state legislators must pass regulations regarding aquaculture equipment and how waterways can be used for commercial farming under state law.

As the Brunswick News recently reported, the hatchery run by the University of Georgia on Skidaway Island could produce 15 million oyster "seeds" by 2022. However, because the industry is still in its beginning stages, there are currently only 10 licensed oyster harvesters in the entire state. The hatchery has already provided those 10 growers with oyster seeds, as well as equipment to collect data about how the shellfish develop in our waters.

It's not rocket science. Oyster farmers use a cage and mesh bag system to support the growth of single oysters, from immature seed to fully-developed bivalve. Seed oysters grow in metal cages set in brackish water farms, where they are periodically tumbled in order to create deeper, smoother shells. The growing oysters feed on naturally occurring plankton in the water, which gives them a unique flavor that is both salty and sweet.

Legislative support needed

Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, has already pledged to bring oyster farming legislation up in Atlanta during the next legislative session. Our local elected officials in the Savannah area should do everything in their power to support this initiative.

Georgia only has a fraction of the coastline compared to Florida, but the coastal area near Savannah could potentially be a gold mine when it comes to farming great-tasting, highly marketable oysters.

Years ago, Coastal Georgia was a major commercial source of oysters, with canneries located across the region, and local oystermen plying their trade along local rivers. Now, we have the chance to put the Peach State back on the culinary map, once again producing high-quality oysters that can be featured on menus at top restaurants.

Right now, Coastal Georgia is missing out on a major opportunity to provide jobs and generate revenue through oyster farming. With strategic support from state legislators and investment from the private sector, we can jump-start the aquaculture industry in Georgia and start generating a delicious return on investment for many years to come.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com/

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July 25

The Newnan Times-Herald criticizes U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, saying he ducked press:

(...) U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson introduced the American Border Act, H.R. 6415.

The bill proposes spending $23.4 billion for border security, including $16.625 billion for "a border wall system along the southern border of the United States." This is a significant piece of proposed legislation, which has the potential to be a historical action on the part of the U.S. government.

If only Mr. Ferguson would talk about his bill.

When his office sent a press release announcing H.R. 6415, we attempted to contact him.

We wanted to hear what led Drew Ferguson to propose this ambitious project. Billions of dollars have to come from somewhere, so how does he plan to fund the wall? Will it come from new taxes? If it comes from savings in the budget, what would be cut to fund it?

The response we received was that Mr. Ferguson "did not have any availability," along with a suggestion that we use the quote from the press release.

When we persisted, his communications director, Amy Timmerman, suggested we email questions to Mr. Ferguson's "policy team."

We did not, however, have questions for the "policy team." No one in Coweta County voted for his policy team, nor will anyone from that policy team be on ballots here in November.

We were later told that Mr. Ferguson did attempt to call our editor twice. Although our reporters have been in regular contact with his office and have gotten telephone calls on our cell phones in the past, the only call we received was at a home number.

That reporter was not at home, and upon calling the number back, got a recording that stated, "You have reached a non-working number at the U.S. House of Representatives."

Efforts to contact Mr. Ferguson the following day by phone and email were also unsuccessful.

In April, when the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce held political forums at Central Educational Center, Mr. Ferguson was the only no-show in his race.

His Republican opponent, Philip Singleton, and the Democrats seeking the post, Chuck Enderlin and Rusty Oliver, all attended. They answered questions from panelists, asked for votes and visited with forum attendees before and after the televised event.

Mr. Ferguson sent a taped message.

There may be political wisdom in Mr. Ferguson's actions. He is a Republican incumbent in a conservative district. Being in Washington, surrounded by a phalanx of press people and policy team members, may help him get re-elected.

But it is not ethical, and it is not right.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of a free press, allowing citizens to hold elected officials accountable, to ensure government transparency and protect from political corruption.

Many of our Congressional representatives in the past have understood that interaction with the press and the people they represent are part of their job.

The residents of Coweta County and the 3rd District deserve a representative who is more than a shadow on the wall, more than a phantom represented by underlings.

Mr. Ferguson, your constituents want to talk with you.

Online: http://times-herald.com/

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July 27

Augusta Chronicle applauds the sentencing of a Missouri man who was convicted of terrorizing a Georgia mosque with threatening voice messages:

With a toxic cocktail of hate and paranoia, and maybe a splash of alcohol for good measure, Preston Howard became what he appeared to fear most.

The Wright, Mo., man — who chose an Augusta mosque at random to terrorize with repeated threatening voice messages in June and July 2017 — arguably became the terrorist he apparently dreaded and despised. And ... a federal judge in Augusta sentenced him to two years in prison.

In so doing, U.S. District Judge Randal Hall granted an assistant U.S. attorney's request to go beyond the federal sentencing guideline range of 15 to 21 months.

Good.

As we noted on this page almost exactly a year ago ("Not here, not anywhere — not anymore"), the calls — which we listened to recordings of — were disgustingly reminiscent of the naked racism many African-Americans experienced in the bad old days. The caller, whom we now know as Howard, threatened to kill, shoot, behead, slaughter, execute, light on fire and otherwise murder members of the mosque, and to "hunt down" and "zone in" on Muslims and "blow up the mosque."

As we wrote at the time, this was terrorism, pure and simple: using threats or violence to strike fear in others for a political or religious purpose. And there is absolutely no place for it in Augusta, in Georgia, in America or, indeed, anywhere else.

In multiple messages left at an area mosque, Howard spews the most vile, profane and homicidal hatred we've heard in quite some time, if ever. In rambling, repetitive, expletive-laced rants, he not only threatens Muslims with death but also demands they go back to their "own" countries — notwithstanding the fact that many Muslims were born here just like any other native-born American, or took an oath of citizenship, and that many others are here quite legally.

Howard purports he's a changed man since being incarcerated after his arrest last December, and his attorney blamed violent videos and drinking. Howard was apologetic and professed shame at his sentencing, and says he's studied the Quran in jail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Greenwood noted, however, that he'd surrounded himself with overly provocative symbols and had also made late-night anonymous calls to groups advocating for black lesbians and fighting fascism.

We pray he's a changed man as he says. The hate he conveyed, and the fright and horror he aroused, have no place in a civilized society. And they only served to sully whatever cause he thought he was championing.

What he did, the judge told him, "goes to the heart of who we are as a nation."

So does Howard's prosecution — which we hope is redemptive.

Speaking for the mosque, Dr. Hossam Fadel told Judge Hall that it has grown into a community here that provides food, clothing and medical care to those in need and which has opened its doors to everyone in the community. "We are part and parcel of the CSRA community," he said.

In these parts, that makes them family.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com/