- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Times on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Moreland Commission.

July 29

Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally took public questions on Monday about a scorching report in The Times last week that revealed how his aides had interfered with ethics investigators in Albany.

The governor’s delayed press briefing was a defiant attempt to defend himself against politically damaging evidence of his conduct. Once again, Mr. Cuomo has changed his story about the way he created, handled and then suddenly disbanded the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

When Mr. Cuomo appointed the commission last year, he promised commissioners they would be “totally independent.” They could investigate anybody in state government, even him, he said. Then, as The Times reported, his top aide tried to head off investigations that touched on the governor’s own interests. The aide, Lawrence Schwartz, told some investigators that the governor was off-limits and their job was to go after legislators.

Mr. Cuomo abruptly shut down the commission in March, and in April argued that because he had created it, “it is mine. It is controlled by me.”

Now, he’s trying to sell New Yorkers another unconvincing spin. At a press briefing in Buffalo on Monday, he said that his administration had merely offered “advice” to commissioners and investigators. “Independence doesn’t mean you get holed up in an ivory tower and you don’t talk to anyone,” he said.

The investigators who had to respond to the governor’s pressure almost certainly did not view the directives of his aides as optional.

On Monday, he made a preposterous claim that the commission’s work was “a phenomenal success” when, in fact, the commission was shut down halfway through its term and had not concluded its investigations.

Preet Bharara, United States attorney in Manhattan, has taken over the commission’s inquiries. Any truly independent investigation of corrupt practices in Albany will now depend on Mr. Bharara’s work. What is truly disturbing is that Mr. Cuomo now wants to deny interfering with the commission while claiming that its job was done.




The Albany Times union on state tax breaks for the entertainment industry.

July 29

There is something about hearing “Live from New York,” or something to that effect, on TV. Or seeing the New York City skyline as the backdrop on an iconic talk show. Or having stars like Angelina Jolie, Ryan Gosling, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman tread the same ground as we mere mortals in the Capital Region. It does a New Yorker proud.

And, yet, we’d venture that more than a few New Yorkers winced at the news that “The Late Show” will stay in New York when Stephen Colbert takes over as host next year - with the help of up to $16 million in taxpayer-supported tax credits and grants.

Prestige isn’t quite the same when you have to pay for it, is it? Especially when it’s your tax dollars, going to a successful TV show and a network that posted a record year last year - $3.2 billion in operating income on revenues of almost $15.3 billion.

Of course, it’s not just prestige that makes New York shell out money to enterprises that clearly don’t need it. TV shows mean jobs and, on shows with studio audiences, something for tourists to see and do.

But that doesn’t really take the edge off the realization that the “Late Show” break alone is more than enough to close the entire budget gap of a struggling small city like Albany, or save more than 100 teaching jobs in a state in which districts have been laying off educators and cutting programs. And, while the economic development argument sounds like it makes sense, not everyone in government thinks that’s so.

At $420 million a year, the film production tax credit is one of the state’s biggest tax incentives, second only to its program to clean up and reuse old industrial brownfields - another program in which money has been going to enterprises that often don’t need it. The New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission concluded that, while it has had a positive effect in generating jobs, “it does not appear to pay for itself in its current form.” It recommended scaling it back by $50 million.

A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that, among the 39 states that have some kind of film or TV credit, several - Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin - have ended or defunded them, while others have pared them back. Still, some, like Hawaii, have increased them. A new one started this year in Nevada.

Maybe the answer is for all of us to threaten to leave New York unless we get a tax break commensurate with our economic and intrinsic value. We could all have a personal New York impact, based on such factors as how much we make, how much we spend, how many people benefit from the gift of our presence, how well liked we are, and so on.

Of course, the richer and more popular you are, the bigger your tax break will be. Sort of the way it is now.




The Buffalo News on General Motors’ response to investigations into unexplained crashes of its vehicles.

July 29

More than most Americans, Western New Yorkers have cause to be furious about the lethal deceptions General Motors ran on its customers, the Congress and the public. Not only were they every bit as exposed to injury or death as other Americans, but the region has supported the company, and relied on it, as an influential part of its economy.

GM didn’t care about that; it cared only about not getting caught. So company leaders lied. They deceived. They knowingly put their own customers at risk of injury and death and, thus, put the company itself at risk of destruction.

And, incredibly, it did all of this even as American taxpayers were forking over millions of dollars to keep the company afloat as the Great Recession washed away its economic foundation. For the sake of its employees and the regional economies that the company supports, we hope it survives. But it was playing with a loaded weapon and among its victims is its own reputation and maybe even its survival.

The stories only become more disturbing. Recently, the New York Times reported that in responding to regulators investigating unexplained crashes of GM vehicles, company officials dissembled, claiming not to know what the cause could be, even though a company engineer, Manuel Peace, had already determined that at least one crash was likely due to the engine shutting off.

Whatever their motivation was, it didn’t work. The company is now the target of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, looking into whether GM obscured a deadly defect during its interaction with regulators - a defect that may have injured hundreds of people.

The company will probably survive. Other large organizations, including the Catholic Church, have been able to weather terrible scandals. They are old enough, entrenched enough and connected enough to outlast the inquiries, the loss of stature and even the penalties to which they may be appropriately subjected.

But, assuming the facts are as they seem, the penalties for concealing deadly defects should be severe and could justly include prison time for individuals involved in this shameful episode.

General Motors says it has learned its lesson and is reforming its corrupted culture. That’s fine and even appropriate. But killers often find religion after they’re caught and it’s never enough to prevent them from paying the price for despicable acts. It shouldn’t prevent it in this case, either.




The Schenectady Daily Gazette on the NFL’s handling of a domestic abuse case involving a player.

July 29

It’s probably says something a little sad about society that we look to the National Football League to place value on social problems.

Still, if the nation’s most popular sport (sorry, soccer) can have an impact on our young people, particularly impressionable young athletes, then why not?

So it’s more than a little disappointing that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed only a two-game suspension on superstar Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice last week in response to a videotape showing him dragging his fiance unconscious from an Atlantic City casino elevator in February after he apparently knocked her out. Police say they have footage of the beating as well.

“We simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Rice. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

Given how the NFL has previously punished players for offenses on and off the field, the commissioner’s statement on the league’s intolerance of domestic violence is a non-funny joke.

The NFL since 2006 has suspended more than 70 players for positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs and recreational drugs like marijuana. According to Deadspin, two players were suspended for four games for testing positive for drugs. A Browns wide receiver could lose the entire season for smoking pot. Another player got eight games at the end of last year for a second drug offense.

Plaxico Burress of the Giants got suspended four games for accidentally shooting himself in the leg. One player, Terrelle Pryor, was suspended for five games even before he was drafted into the NFL for trading signed personal items for tattoos during college.

So it’s clear the NFL takes offenses seriously, even when there’s been no criminal conviction.

But one of its players knocks a woman unconscious, and all he gets is a two-game suspension? What does that say about the league’s social conscience?

According to the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, domestic violence, particularly against women, is a significant issue in New York.

In 2012, there were 119,355 total assaults reported by police agencies outside New York City. Of those, 27 percent were committed by intimate partners, with women being the victim 80 percent of the time. Nearly 60 percent of female homicide victims aged 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner that year. In 2012, 22 percent of the state’s 27,823 parolees had a history of domestic violence. And 218,570 orders of protection issued in New York in 2012 were recorded in the Unified Court System’s Domestic Violence Registry. State and local governments and courts devote millions of dollars to curbing and punishing domestic violence.

But the NFL decides that smoking pot - which is legal in the two states whose teams played in the Super Bowl this year, by the way - is more egregious than beating your partner unconscious.

If the NFL truly wants to be a role model for today’s young athletes, it must take issues like domestic violence more seriously. In this case, the league missed an opportunity to lead, by punishing a knockout punch to a woman with a slap on the wrist.




The New York Daily News on anti-Semetic incidents in Europe.

July 29

As Israel does the tough but necessary work of attempting to stop Hamas terror strikes on innocent civilians, anti-Semitic rhetoric grows louder across Europe. In some places, the hate-filled energy is being converted into violence against Jews.

The breadth of the phenomenon is frightening.

In Germany, multiple street attacks have been reported in recent weeks, and an imam is under investigation for telling Muslims to murder Jews.

In Great Britain, police have registered more than 100 anti-Jewish hate crimes since the crisis in Gaza began.

In Norway, as threats swirl, authorities have recommended that two Jewish museums be temporarily closed for safety reasons.

In the Netherlands, assailants attacked the home of the Dutch chief rabbi.

In France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish population, hate-criminals targeted eight synagogues over the course of one week this month.

In a Parisian suburb that’s home to 15,000 Jews, anti-Semites set aflame a pharmacy and a kosher grocery. And an anti-Israel demonstration turned vicious as a gang descended on a synagogue, with some chanting “Death to Jews.”

In Turkey - an aspiring member of the European Union - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently uttered these insane and odious words about Israelis: “Now their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”

Protesters are, of course, free to decry Israeli military action, and to burn the Jewish State’s flag if they like. But they cross into dangerous immorality when they create a climate of intimidation, draw grotesque parallels between a war of self-defense and the Holocaust and target not policy but people - Jews because they are Jews.





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