- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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LET’S GET REAL ID, Oct. 18

Living in Pennsylvania could become more difficult soon.

On Jan. 30, 2017, a Pennsylvania driver’s license won’t be a good enough identification to be allowed onto a military base, into a federal facility or into a nuclear power plant.

A year later, that driver’s license won’t be sufficient ID to be allowed to board a plane.

Pennsylvania and seven other states have known this day was coming since 2005, when Congress passed the Real ID Act, which developed tougher standards for state driver’s licenses and ID cards after the 9-11 hijackers received valid identification from several states.

Among the requirements that eight states have failed to meet are documentation such as Social Security numbers, retaining copies or digital images of applications and source documents, and including approved security markings on driver’s licenses, according to The Associated Press.

PennDOT says it would take 18 to 24 months to get up to speed and fulfill the requirements so Pennsylvania residents could resume using their driver’s licenses as their necessary ID.

But PennDOT is stuck between the state Legislature and the federal government.

In 2012, the Legislature decided Pennsylvania wasn’t going to comply with the Real ID Act. In fact, they were so dead set against it, the legislators passed Act 38, the Real ID Nonparticipation Act, making it illegal for the governor, PennDOT or any other state agency to participate in the Real ID Act of 2005 or the regulations it produced.

Take that, U.S. government. We’re not going to participate in your program to regulate what paperwork people will need to turn in to get a legal ID.

In 2012, the ACLU hailed Act 38 as protecting privacy.

“Real ID is a de facto national ID card and is a disaster for the privacy rights of all Pennsylvanians,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, according to aclupa.org.

The organization also said it would cost PennDOT $100 million to implement Real ID and $40 million annually to maintain the data.

Besides, many groups said, most states aren’t complying with the regulations anyway. The Department of Homeland Security has been handing out extensions for more than a decade as states drag their feet on meeting the requirements. Why would the feds start to crack down?

That line of thinking worked until last week, when the DHS rejected requests from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Maine and South Carolina for another extension. Minnesota, Missouri and Washington state had already been notified that they were out of compliance with the law.

And now the residents of Pennsylvania are staring at a deadline the state says it can’t make.

We understand that there are privacy concerns, that folks worry that there will be a huge database somewhere with everyone’s driving records in it, that people are viewing this as a national identification card, that there will be huge lines if everyone has to have their picture taken multiple times when getting a license. (Thanks to RealNightmare.org for ideas on how badly this could go, by the way.)

But then there are those of us in the real world who would like to be able to go into a federal facility if necessary, who might need to go to a military base sometime, who want to be able to fly from BWI to Orlando without having to get a passport in order to be allowed on the plane.

No, Real ID isn’t a solution to terrorism. It might not be a solution to anything at all. But it is the U.S. law, and Pennsylvania can’t put its collective fingers in its ears and sing in order to ignore it.

Grow up, Legislature. Let PennDOT do what it needs to do to allow residents of the state to continue on with their lives without undue hassle.

- The York Dispatch

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CLINTON IS PREPARED, QUALIFIED TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT, Oct. 16

After months of inappropriate statements, crazy late-night tweets, ridiculous and vicious attacks on critics and shocking revelations, it is time to believe what Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been telling us: He is not fit to be president.

The presidency is not a reality television show. The person who holds the office has to understand not only how government and international relations work, but also has to have the judgment and self-control necessary to make decisions in the best interest of the country. The president must be able to maintain composure under the most critical and sensitive circumstances.

There is only one candidate in this race who we believe fits that description: Democrat Hillary Clinton. She is an experienced politician, skilled diplomat and proven leader who knows how to marshal support across partisan lines to get things done in Washington and on the world stage.

Those are the traits we need in our next president to break the political gridlock paralyzing progress and preventing solutions to such critical issues as tax reform, lower health care costs, and economic progress for the middle class, immigration reform and creation of good jobs for the 21st century.

What Donald Trump promises as a neophyte politician has caught the attention of some voters, especially those who are wondering what has happened to the country they love. But Trump does not have realistic solutions. Nor does he have the experience, the knowledge or the temperament to occupy the Oval Office. His plans are hollow campaign promises without details. And his rhetoric is divisive - racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. That is not the kind of nation we should aspire to be.

Hillary Clinton has put forth a strategy for creating jobs by fixing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, and providing training for digital-era jobs in the energy and technology fields. Her plans also include a rational immigration policy and diplomatically reworking trade agreements that need fixing. She has dealt with heads of state and understands the delicate balance necessary to keep the U.S. strong and respected around the world.

And, importantly, she knows that bombastic pronouncements and ego-driven decision-making are not just self-indulgent and unproductive, they are dangerous. She also knows that a careless tweet can have real-world consequences.

The latest leak of vile statements made by Trump on an open microphone should not surprise anyone. He has said many disgusting and discriminatory things in this campaign. But his shocking references to how he views women, recorded a decade ago and released last week, should be the last straw for those who are ambivalent about his candidacy. In last Sunday’s debate he pretended to apologize to voters after cavalierly describing his taped remarks as simply “locker room banter” and no more. We don’t believe him.

Clinton is also not the perfect presidential candidate. She has trust issues tied to her political ambitions. She has not been completely transparent about Benghazi, her use of a private email server, the potential conflict between her secretary of state position and the Clinton Foundation, and her refusal to release her paid speeches made to Wall Street bankers after she left office. But she has acknowledged she made mistakes and has apologized for them.

When you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates, Clinton has the decisive edge because of her background in public service, her knowledge of government policies, her diplomatic experience on the world stage and her record of working across the political aisle for the public good.

Clinton is prepared and qualified to be our next president.

- The Sharon Herald

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STRIKE THREAT STRIKES STUDENTS MOST, Oct. 17

Faculty from East Stroudsburg University and 13 other state schools are poised to walk out if negotiators don’t reach a satisfactory contract. Should a strike occur, students will experience the worst of it.

Students are pawns in this ongoing struggle between faculty members, represented by the APSCUF union, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The sides entered an intensive three-day session and blacked out the media.

Among the most contentious issues is a PASSHE proposal calling for adjunct faculty members to teach at least five classes, not four, but without a pay raise. Average salary for adjuncts is about $46,000 a year.

Faculty are also concerned about the possibility that tenure-track faculty members won’t be guaranteed lifetime health care after retirement, and the flexibility that growing on-line instruction gives PASSHE to axe teaching positions.

The dispute results from a long history of labor negotiations that has left the state system over a brewery-size barrel when it comes to personnel expenses.

Pity the poor adjuncts, yes. Their average salary falls below the average household income in Monroe County, which various sources estimate to be from $53,000 to nearly $58,000 a year.

But the system has grown more heavily reliant on adjuncts because its tenured faculty members are paid so well - many of them $90,000 and up. Those who retire after earning well over $100,000 annually continue receiving a sizeable percentage of that in pension - more than what the adjuncts make for working - for the rest of their lives. Plus benefits, of course.

Faculty members, who mostly hold doctorates, say they deserve the high salaries, and no one can argue that years of study warrant a reward. But the hard fact is that the Pennsylvania economy has not been booming for years, while the cost of college has risen sharply. Pennsylvania’s contribution to higher ed has decreased sharply; tuition has risen accordingly. Rising college tuition leaves many students with towering debt - in some cases debt that rivals a home mortgage. Meanwhile many campuses seem to be competing to offer the latest, finest facilities, investing precious capital year after year in new buildings.

College students want the education they’re paying for. They have faced spiraling college costs that have begun to put higher education out of reach for some and forced others to extend their education over many years so that they can pay for it more gradually.

It is a shame that students, who are seeking an education and paying tuition for it, could suddenly go without classes. Faculty members at every level should take a hard look at their demands. They just might get what they ask for - but students, and taxpayers, will pay for it.

- The Pocono Record

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THE ‘RUSSIAN RESET’: PITFALLS OF POOR POLICY, Oct. 15

Remember the “Russian reset,” that ballyhooed initiative by the Obama administration to improve relations with Russia in 2009? There was even a photo op of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handing Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a red reset button.

A few months later, President Obama gave Russia a more significant gift by announcing that he was abandoning the Bush administration’s plan to build a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe. What followed has been a downward spiral in relations and a disturbing uptick in Russian arrogance.

With the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia annexed Crimea. Then Moscow plodded into the Syrian war, making an even bigger mess of a festering morass. Now Democrats are in a lather over alleged Russian email hacking (that is, after the Obama administration for years all but ignored cyber attacks on government databases.)

Russia has suspended an agreement with the U.S. on nuclear and energy-related research. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has scuttled an agreement on the disposal of weapon-grade plutonium. It doesn’t take a foreign policy expert to see that Mr. Putin is taking advantage of the vacuum left by Team Obama in world leadership.

Still, observers insist that despite an abysmal “reset,” Moscow wants cooperation with the West. The question for America’s next president is, on whose terms will that cooperation be based?

- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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WE’VE LOST THE ABILITY TO DISAGREE, Oct. 16

One of the great tragedies of the current state of divisiveness in American politics is that we have lost the ability to reasonably disagree. Rather than discuss our societal issues — and they are many — we tend to divide into camps and declare war on those with whom we disagree.

Such is the case in the Cornell School District, where a decision by the majority of the school’s cheerleaders to kneel during the playing of the national anthem at the Sept. 30 football game led to a barrage of threatening emails and phone calls to the district.

It’s gotten so bad that the district is now concerned about student safety. Last Friday’s game was moved from its scheduled evening start to the afternoon, and only the parents of players were permitted to attend. That meant no cheerleaders, no band and no students.

In addition, homecoming activities that were planned for the weekend were canceled, although district officials hope to reschedule them for a later date.

What fueled the controversy in Cornell was not just the protest over racial inequality by the cheerleaders, but a video that circulated through social media accusing Superintendent Aaron Thomas of intentionally humiliating a group of World War II veterans who were present to serve as a color guard. The video cobbled together a previous television station interview with Thomas, footage of the kneeling cheerleaders and images of crying veterans. Viewers were encouraged to call the school in protest.

Thomas said he’s received more than 600 threatening phone calls and emails, many from out of state, as a result of the video being spread on social media. To ensure student safety, Thomas goes through every email to make sure there are no direct threats to the school or students.

The end result is that security has been increased at the school, and local police have also increased their patrols around Thomas’ home.

It’s a truly sad state of affairs for one of the smallest school districts in the state. What’s most disturbing is that many of the emails or social media comments contain disparaging or racially charged remarks about the district and its students.

It’s no surprise that when protected by the cloak of anonymity, those offering disparaging or threatening comments feel emboldened to unleash incredibly hurtful remarks. Such actions display cowardice, not critical discussion.

Keep in mind that this protest was by a group of teenage girls who probably didn’t take into consideration how a group of war veterans might react. Their actions are certainly open to criticism from those with opposing views, but threats against anyone over the exercising of First Amendment rights is never acceptable.

Thomas said there was never any intent to insult the veterans who were at the game, and he has met with them to apologize for the situation. He said most of them understood that the display was not directed at them.

This district would certainly like to put this controversy behind it and restore some sense of normalcy to the school year. One solution might be to have those cheerleaders and war veterans sit down and talk with one another. No shouting or finger-pointing. Just talk to one another and discuss how a personal decision can impact others.

- The Beaver County Times

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