Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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BATON ROUGE, La. >> Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term today as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.

In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.

Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.

In a victory rally of his own late today, Edwards thanked supporters who chanted the familiar Louisiana refrain, “Who dat!” and he declared, “How sweet it is!”

He added, “And as for the president, God bless his heart” — a phrase often used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.

Trump had made the runoff election between Edwards and Rispone a test of his own popularity and political prowess heading into the 2020 presidential race. Today Trump went on Twitter in a vigorous plug for Rispone.

The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.

Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana’s race as bolstering their case. Edwards, a West Point graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.

Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.

In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.

He had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his agenda. Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.

Edwards expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.

Rispone, the 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Army Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.

“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”

Rispone framed himself in the mold of Trump, describing himself as a “conservative outsider” whose business acumen would help solve the state’s problems.

“We want Louisiana to be No. 1 in the South when it comes to jobs and opportunity. We have to do something different,” Rispone said. “We can do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.

Rispone also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans when taking office. He promised tax cuts, without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote work, on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

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Should Netflix and Hulu give you emergency alerts?

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New York (CNN Business)The federal emergency alert program was designed decades ago to interrupt your TV show or radio station and warn about impending danger from severe weather events to acts of war.

“More and more people are opting out of the traditional television services,” said Gregory Touhill, a cybersecurity expert who served at the Department of Homeland security and was the first-ever Federal Chief Information Security Officer. “There’s a huge population out there that needs to help us rethink how we do this.”

Possible vs. practical

    Adding federal alerts to those platforms might not entirely be a technical issue, at least on the government’s end. The service has already been updated to include smartphones.
    tech
    And FEMA, the agency that manages the system’s technology, told CNN Business that there are “no known technical hurdles involved in transmitting alerts” to devices that are connected to the internet. In fact, the agency has a way to do that, according to a FEMA spokesperson.
    But a new tool would need to be developed to distribute alert information to streaming platforms. FEMA said the “unknown quantity” is figuring out who would develop and install the applications.
    That’s not a simple task, said Touhill, who’s now president of the cybersecurity firm Cyxtera Federal Group. He told CNN Business that the required tool would need to be “exquisitely complex.” It would need to be thoroughly tested and safeguarded to ensure that only authorized parties have access.
    “Is it possible? Yes. Is it practical? Maybe not,” Touhill told CNN Business.
    Another concern is whether devices connected to the internet are reliable indicators of a person’s location. Emergency alerts need to be able to target a specific area so that they only reach people who are at risk.
    People on the internet can be traced through their IP addresses — unique strings of numbers assigned to each device that are also associated with a specific set of geographic coordinates. That’s how companies like Netflix determine which language and content to show its customers.
    But those locations can be unreliable or easily manipulated, Touhill said.
    It’s also not clear that enough information is there in some cases. A source familiar with Netflix’s thinking told CNN Business that the company’s ability to pinpoint a customer’s exact location may vary depending on that person’s internet service provider. That means Netflix might not reliably know a person’s location with enough specificity to provide effective emergency alerts.
    Congress has considered some of these issues. Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, proposed a bill last year that called for authorities to look into the feasibility of adding streaming services to the federal emergency alert system.
    The READI Act received bipartisan support and passed the Senate, but it died in the House. Schatz’s office told CNN Business this week that he plans to refile the bill for the current Congress.

    How to improve

    Adding streaming platforms to the alert system “is not a bad idea,” said National Weather Service senior meteorologist Kevin Laws.
    Laws is based in Birmingham and was part of a team that issued warnings to residents when tornadoes struck Alabama last Sunday. His team watches storms on a radar, and their predictions are automatically routed to FEMA’s alert system.
    But upgrades to the system are expensive and slow. Instead, Laws said he thinks alerts would be better helped through improvements to the type of information that authorities can share when a storm is in the area.
    Why you don't see emergency alerts when you're watching Netflix or playing Fortnite - CNN
    His ideal scenario? A day when storms are tracked automatically and alerts are consistently updated to show residents percentage of the likelihood that they will be affected.
    Such a feature would have helped last Sunday, he said, when some storms were particularly strong and unpredictable. Some parts of Alabama received emergency warnings more than half an hour before they were hit. But when a deadly tornado unexpectedly veered toward Lee County, where the death toll reached 23 people, locals were only notified about nine minutes beforehand.
      “I’ve spent many tearful days out there doing this job. And it kills me a little more every time,” Laws said, adding that disasters like the one that hit the state will happen again.
      “We have to keep improving the system,” he said.

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      At Least 2 Movie Theater Chains Ban Masks At ‘Joker’ Screenings

      DENVER, Sept 26 (Reuters) – The Landmark Theaters chain will ban costumes and masks for moviegoers during screenings of the film “Joker,” it said on Thursday, following concerns expressed by families involved in a 2012 mass shooting during a Batman film in Colorado.

      The Los Angeles-based chain, which runs 52 theaters in 27 markets, said it wanted customers to enjoy the film as a “cinematic achievement.”

      “But no masks, painted faces or costumes will be permitted into our theaters,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

      The film opens in theaters on Oct. 4.

      Landmark joins the nation’s largest movie chain, Kansas-based AMC Theatres, which has banned masks in theaters since the Colorado massacre that killed a dozen and wounded scores, and re-affirmed that ban.

      AMC, which runs more than 650 cinemas, reminded customers this week that while it allowed costumes, it did not allow masks.

      “Guests are welcome to come dressed in costume, but we do not permit masks, face paint or any object that conceals the face,” it said in a statement widely reported in the media, including Variety.

      Landmark did not give a reason for its ban.

      But it follows a letter from the families of some victims of the shooting at a 2012 showing of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, to Warner Bros., the studio behind the “Joker,” expressing concern.

      Some of those at the midnight screening in the packed Aurora theater had been wearing costumes. The mass shooting at the Century 16 Theater multiplex owned by Cinemark USA Inc killed 12 and wounded 70.

      The gunman, James Holmes, is serving multiple life sentences after being convicted of mass murder, despite pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

      The new film depicts the mental breakdown of the Joker character, the nemesis of Batman in various movie, television and comic book adaptations, that leads to violence.

      The families’ letter also urged Warner Bros. to end political contributions to candidates who take money from theNational Rifle Association and to fund gun violence intervention programs.

      In response, Warner Bros. issued a statement of sympathy for the victims and their families, Entertainment Weekly said.

      “Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bipartisan legislation to address this epidemic,” WarnerBros. said, media reported.

      But the movie does not endorse real-world violence and does not hold up the Batman villain as a hero, it added.

      Los Angeles police aim to step up visibility during the film’s opening weekend.

      “The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of public concerns and the historical significance associated with the premiere of the Joker,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

      “While there are no credible threats in the Los Angeles area, the department will maintain high visibility around movie theaters when it opens.”

      Aurora police have said Cinemark will not screen “Joker” at the Colorado multiplex, where they continue to provide enhanced security.

      “We recognize this release may cause concern for the families, friends, first responders and beyond,” police said in a statement on Wednesday.

      (Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, and additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Christian Schmollinger)

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      Russia and 2020 Elections

      One week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

      Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.

      As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.

      Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.

      This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.

      WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?

      Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

      That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.

      I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.

      I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.

      I think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.

      Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?

      I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.

      And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?

      It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.

      If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.

      What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?

      So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.

      Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.

      Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?

      Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.

      So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.

      This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.

      I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.


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