Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Bluefield Daily Telegraph. August 16, 2022.

Editorial: Fighting robocalls: W.Va. joins important task force

Robocalls are unwanted and unsolicited phone calls that area residents deal with on a regular basis. Despite a number of laws passed in recent years to curtail this problem, the nuisance calls are still rolling into our cellphones and landlines.

But the fight to stop robocalls is continuing. Earlier this month, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced that the Mountain State had joined a nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force of 50 attorneys general to investigate and take legal action against the telecommunications companies responsible for allowing a majority of foreign robocalls into the United States.

Participants in this bipartisan task force have one goal, which is to reduce the volume of illegal robocalls, Morrisey said.

“Over time, one of the most frequent complaints our office has received has concerned robocalls and the scams they often produce,” Morrisey said. “This obviously impacts not just West Virginia but the entire nation. That is why this bipartisan effort is so important. We are now poised to take the fight to anyone who helps these robocallers, including those in the telecommunications industry.”

The task force has already issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 gateway providers and other entities that are allegedly responsible for a majority of foreign robocall traffic, according to the attorney general’s office. Gateway providers that bring foreign traffic into the U.S. telephone network have a responsibility to ensure the traffic is legal. However, these providers often don’t take sufficient action to stop robocall traffic, Morrisey said.

In order to help reduce the number of robocalls that West Virginia residents receive, the task force will focus on those throughout the telecommunications industry who fail to mitigate the scam calls. Morrisey said this will also aid the companies that do follow the rules.

Morrisey initiated discussions in 2019 with several phone companies in an effort to gain their commitment to expedite the deployment of scam blocking technology. A short time later, he joined attorneys general from every state in reaching a bipartisan, public-private agreement that resulted in several phone companies adopting eight principles to fight illegal robocalls.

Congress also recently passed the TRACED Act, legislation that enables states, federal regulators and telecom providers to take steps to combat unlawful calls.

According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, Americans receive more than 33 million scam robocalls every day. These calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams and many other schemes targeting consumers.

An estimated $29.8 billion was stolen through rip-off calls in 2021. Most of this scam activity originates overseas, according to the attorney general’s office.

The task force initiative is another necessary step in eliminating the nuisance known as robocalls. It doesn’t matter if you have a cellphone or a landline, the odds are pretty good that you recently received an unwanted robocall.

Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, we will be able to answer our phones without worrying about robocalls.

But until that day arrives the attorney general’s office offers the following suggestions on how to protect yourself from robocalls.

• Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer or cryptocurrency. For example, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept iTunes gift cards.

• Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make any phone calls to individuals.

• If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang up and do not provide any personal information.

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The Intelligencer. August 18, 2022.

Editorial: Address Challenging Issues in Our Schools

West Virginia lawmakers have a long history of ignoring uncomfortable issues — sometimes for generations — when it seems as though there is little political pressure to act. Among the latest examples is the question of racial disparity in discipline in our public schools. This one has been put on the backburner for years.

Federal data shows that while Black students make up less than 5% of the total public school population here, they are suspended at twice the rate of White students. To address the problem, state lawmakers decided back in 2020 to ask the West Virginia Department of Education to analyze the data and create a program to address it.

Here we are in the summer of 2022, and, according to reporting by Mountain State Spotlight, the report requested by lawmakers two years ago has finally arrived. But the report itself is “unwieldy and unreadable” and presents no possible solutions to the problem.

Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, sponsored the bill seeking the report. “I think this is the first step. I think that’s what the intention was of the bill. To bring out the numbers, figure out what the trends are, and then begin to address those trends. …”

If lawmakers and education officials believe that this is a real problem, for goodness sake how many more years worth of students are they going to let suffer before they act to address it?

Federal data shows that while Black students make up less than 5% of the total public school population here, they are suspended at twice the rate of White students. To address the problem, state lawmakers decided back in 2020 to ask the West Virginia Department of Education to analyze the data and create a program to address it.

Here we are in the summer of 2022, and, according to reporting by Mountain State Spotlight, the report requested by lawmakers two years ago has finally arrived. But the report itself is “unwieldy and unreadable” and presents no possible solutions to the problem.

Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, sponsored the bill seeking the report. “I think this is the first step. I think that’s what the intention was of the bill. To bring out the numbers, figure out what the trends are, and then begin to address those trends…”

If lawmakers and education officials believe that this is a real problem, for goodness sake how many more years worth of students are they going to let suffer before they act to address it?

They’ve got a lot on their plates right now, and perhaps are counting on using that as an excuse. But if, as reported, the data shows there is truly a disparity in the way teachers and administrators discipline Black students as compared with White students, it is legislators’ responsibility to get moving and address it. Now.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. August 13, 2022.

Editorial: COVID-19: Health officials are right to plan ahead

State health care officials are watching changes in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations carefully, and have decided it might be time to prepare for another challenge to the hospitals and health care systems that haven’t quite caught their breath from the last round.

On Aug. 22, the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force for COVID-19 vaccines will hold a tabletop exercise to look at options for supporting those hospitals and health care systems if the numbers do, indeed, keep climbing. Staffing shortages and supply chain issues mean the “benchmark of concern” is 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide. We are around 400 at the moment.

“We can insulate ourselves and go higher than that, but at 500 it starts to get uncomfortable,” Gov. Jim Justice told WVNews on Tuesday.

“The hospitals currently are not having capacity limitations just because of COVID,” state COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh told WVNews. “Many hospitals have big backlogs of surgeries and medical care that people put off during the pandemic surges that we’ve seen previously. So the hospitals are very full — both with patients with COVID, but also with people without (COVID).”

The time for planning is now, and it is encouraging to know state officials are working to get ahead of the game. In the meantime, each of us can do his or her part in preventing a significant increase in those numbers by getting vaccinated or boosted, staying home and testing if we feel ill, and using common sense practices for stemming the spread of the virus.

If health officials feel the need to shore up their efforts, so should we.

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