South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on climate change:
As Americans enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday, the Trump administration quietly released a congressionally mandated update to the U.S. National Climate Assessment.
The National Climate Assessment is a quadrennial report from 13 U.S. federal agencies with input from hundreds of government and non-governmental experts. It synthesizes a detailed understanding about climate change globally and in the United States, using the best peer-reviewed science available.
The 2018 report, released Nov. 23, describes how the impacts of climate change affect the U.S. now and in the future. The report begins, “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”
The report warns “climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century” unless we take stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to severe storms, flooding and other climate impacts that are already a reality.
In the South, there is particular reason to pay attention to the new climate report, as not all regions of the country are affected equally by global warming.
Asked about the report’s findings that annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, President Donald Trump replied “Yeah, I don’t believe it.”
Once again, the issue of climate change is being bandied about politically, with Trump being painted as the denier in chief willing to sacrifice the planet. In the other corner are those believing that any and every policy pertaining to economics and life should be predicated on global warming.
As usual, somewhere in the middle is the right approach ... The evidence must not be ignored and actions are necessary.
But the world economy cannot be sacrificed on the altar of making every policy focus on fighting it no matter the consequences. The future is important but there must be protections in the present as well.
Americans should demand that our leaders approach global warming with an eye toward formulating policies that can be implemented with support across the board. Full cooperation on a package of the most effective policies in fighting global warming would be better than continuing to debate all or nothing.
Index-Journal of Greenwood on presidents:
While they’re serving in the Oval Office, presidents are typically either revered or reviled. George H.W. Bush — or 41 — was treated no differently. But in the many years since he left office after losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, many of Bush’s critics softened.
Time has a way of doing that, or so it seems, as we reflect on our presidents. Jimmy Carter comes to mind as another example of a president who found favor well after his presidency came to an end.
Imagine, if you can or will, our current president being something of a cross between Bush and Carter. Presidential toughness blended with the right amount of empathy and sympathy might make for a less caustic and divisive president. Of course — and rather obviously — there are plenty who would say we don’t need “kinder and gentler” in today’s political climate, but we would respectfully disagree. But that is the ebb and flow of presidencies.
Still, admiration for Bush grew through the years. Perhaps that can be attributed as much to his and the nation’s first lady, Barbara Bush, who seemed to not only be her husband’s keel, but also the entire Bush clan’s keel. Maybe it is how the couple became somewhat representative of America’s grandparents. Or the admiration many had for the love and devotion the two shared.
It is also possible that the real George H.W. Bush became more easily recognizable following his presidency, especially when he and Clinton united to address the needs of Indian Ocean tsunami victims and Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Time, political climate and human nature combine to mold the sentiments we have regarding presidents. Having lived into his 94th year, Bush was one who was fortunate enough to witness a tidal shift that brought many of those who once reviled him to at least admire and respect the man, even if they did not revere him.
His presidential history cannot be rewritten, but his place in history surely shifted more into the favorable ranks even years before his death on Friday.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on cellphones in prisons:
Add to the list of reasons why the Federal Communications Commission should allow state prison officials to jam cellphones signals a South Carolina prison-based “sextortion” ring that prosecutors say bilked 442 military personnel out of at least $560,000.
That outrageous scam joins other scandals and crimes like the attempted murder of a prison guard orchestrated by cellphone. Or the two-time escapee who ginned up $50,000 online, then had a drone deliver him wire cutters. Or the deadly April 15 riot at Lee prison blamed in part on cellphones.
The list goes on and on, but the FCC has yet to budge, and Congress hasn’t moved to amend an outdated 1934 law that bans the “willful or malicious interference to authorized radio communications.”
But at some point, lawmakers have to ask what it means to lock up criminals if they still have the outside world in the palm of their hands.
The latest con — duping service members into sending X-rated photos of themselves, then using a third party to demand a payoff under the threat of reporting the exchange as a crime — is just a tiny slice of criminal pie carved up by prisoners with plenty of time and bandwidth.
Five S.C. prisoners and nine alleged abettors are charged in the latest case. Prosecutors say prisoners impersonating young women on a dating site would send racy photos to military members in exchange for nude photos of themselves. An outsider posing as parent would then contact the marks, say the young women were actually juveniles and threaten to report the supposedly illicit exchange unless they paid a price, which they did. Payoffs averaged more than $1,200 each.
“We do not lock up prisoners only to let them continue their criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon said in announcing the charges. But that’s what happens. And the additional cost of prosecuting a prisoner is passed on to taxpayers.
For years, South Carolina prisons chief Bryan Stirling and his predecessor Jon Ozmint have pleaded with the FCC and Congress to allow cellphone jamming, but to no avail. To get the ball rolling, Mr. Ozmint has said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office could simply issue a legal opinion that says cellphone calls from prison aren’t “authorized radio communications.”
That seems obvious enough.
Since the April 15 Lee prison riot in which seven inmates were killed, the Department of Corrections has spent millions of dollars on initiatives meant to intercept contraband cellphones or disable the thousands already behind bars. Among them is a three-year, $1.5 million contract for a “managed access” cellphone system at Lee prison. Other signal-blocking technologies also are emerging, but they are far more complicated and costly than jamming technology.
State prison officials will continue to grapple with the problem the best they can, but Congress and the FCC have to act soon. Otherwise, criminals will remain able to keep up a criminal lifestyle, even from behind bars.