- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Poughkeepsie Journal on voter turnout for the state primary.

Sept. 22

The primary election season ended with a sad irony: There actually was some intrigue in the Democratic Party gubernatorial race, yet very few people came out to vote.

In fact, the numbers were appalling, with about a paltry 10 percent turnout statewide. Eligible voters of all political stripes must do much better during the general election. And the first step, of course, is to make sure you are registered to vote.

To that end, there is a nationwide, nonpartisan effort afoot to get people to register, and people should take advantage of it. Today is being deemed “National Voter Registration Day,” with the League of Women Voters and others leading the effort.

Organizers note that National Voter Registration Day is the perfect time to register for the first time or to make sure your information is up to date, particularly if you have moved, etc. Of course, potential voters can use various official websites to get information anytime regarding how to register to vote.

Often, with no presidential race as is the case this year, voter turnout numbers dip considerably, but there is plenty on the line this November, particularly in our area. There are two hotly contested congressional races and a slew of state Senate and Assembly seats up for grabs, in addition to three important statewide referendums. One deals with how political boundaries are reconfigured, the second would allow lawmakers to cut down greatly on the mounds of paper needed to pass legislation and the third would authorize the state to spend $2 billion on school technology.

Voters shouldn’t give up their rights nor abrogate their responsibility to weigh in on the issues.

In the Democratic primary, Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout lost by about 25 percent to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but she beat him in some areas of the state, including in Dutchess and Ulster counties. In the general election, Cuomo is facing a challenge from Republican candidate Rob Astorino, who is serving as Westchester County executive, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

New York’s voter turnout numbers are typically below the national average and sometimes at or near the bottom. In the long run, the state should give far more serious consideration to innovations that other states have implemented, including scheduling early voting dates and lengthening registration deadlines. But even without such measures, the boards of elections in Dutchess and UIster counties as well as the state Board of Elections have a wealth of information available on their websites, including registration forms, key dates and deadlines, how to file an absentee ballot, etc.

Now is the time to make sure you are registered and ready to vote come November.

For more information, go to: https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org


Online: https://pojonews.co/1B3pqwi

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on the cost of overtime for state employees.

Sept. 19

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently released a report that showed, for the first six months of the year, New York state employees were paid $316 million in overtime. At that pace, the amount would be more than two-thirds of $1 billion in overtime for the year, up $30 million from the total overtime costs in 2013.

In his report, DiNapoli said this spike in overtime costs could be record-breaking and that “Our state agencies need to examine their practices, get to the root of what is driving high overtime and better manage these costs.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office apparently disagrees. Cuomo’s administration says the overtime costs are still lower than personnel costs from past years, and the state is better off paying huge overtime costs than hiring more people and paying them full salaries and benefits.

That may not be taking into account the fact that in New York, overtime is a big factor in pensions for many state workers. The state bases workers’ post-retirement pay on their wages for their last few years on the job - overtime included. Therefore, it’s normal for state employees to pick up extra shifts and rack up overtime in those pre-retirement years to pad their pensions.

Allowing that is unwise fiscal policy, in our view, but in the meantime, it means that when the state chooses to encourage overtime, it might find itself paying that same overtime pay for decades to those same people long after they leave the state’s employ.

Even so, maybe Gov. Cuomo is right and overtime costs are cheaper than hiring more state workers. Yet still, it is unacceptable that the state is allowing this level of overtime expense. In the private sector, commonly, overtime is only given when absolutely necessary. When positions are eliminated in the private sector, it is also typical for the work of those eliminated jobs to be distributed among the remaining employees as efficiently as possible. Job duties are revised to allow employees to complete the work during regular shifts, and the work that can’t be done isn’t - an incentive to hire more staff to get more done, when the company can afford it.

It is the responsibility of any manager, including those we elect, to ensure employees work more efficiently and not give a blank check for overtime because of a reduction in staff.



The New York Post on the worth of a college education.

Sept. 22

Is a college degree worth it?

Only 44 percent of Americans now say getting a college education is “very important.” That’s down from 75 percent in the same annual poll just four years ago.

The real answer is: It depends. If you’re a Columbia grad with a computer-science degree, you can probably write your own ticket.

But if you’ve spent six years and gone into debt for a degree in hospitality, you probably won’t get the return on investment that would make it worthwhile.

The poll numbers reflect this reality, as people see their children coming out of college and then taking jobs that require no more than a high-school diploma.

It reflects something else, too: People are now approaching college as consumers, asking what they’ll get for their tuition dollars.

Schools are feeling the pinch. According to the 2014 annual survey of college and university admissions directors, more and more colleges are having difficulty reaching their enrollment targets.

Some hope foreign students - who almost always pay full freight - will make up the gap. A few are even cutting tuition.

For some people in some areas, the price of their college educations rivals that of their homes.

That’s a big life purchase.

What they don’t yet have from our colleges and universities is the vital information that would help tell them what a degree is worth before they spend several hundred thousand dollars getting it: e.g., what majors pay off best, what pay off least, the job-success rate for grads and so forth.

Academe hasn’t been good at supplying these answers. But if it doesn’t start, some schools may soon be out of business.


Online: https://bit.ly/1uDMOOG

The New York Times on the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

Sept. 22

For much of the past six years, President Obama has talked about working toward a world without nuclear weapons. Yet his administration is now investing tens of billions of dollars in modernizing and rebuilding America’s nuclear arsenal and facilities, as The Times reported in detail on Monday. And after good progress in making nuclear bomb material more secure around the world, Mr. Obama has reduced his budget requests for that priority. This is a shortsighted and disappointing turn.

With the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria dominating news headlines, it is easy to forget the threat that nuclear weapons and nuclear material continue to pose around the world. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says there are 16,300 nuclear weapons located at some 98 sites in 14 countries, a vast majority in the United States and Russia. There are also 25 countries that possess enough nuclear and radiological materials to build a weapon, with such material held at hundreds of sites, many vulnerable to extremists.

When he first came to office, Mr. Obama was clearsighted about nuclear dangers and ambitious in his disarmament goals. His major arms control achievement was the New Start treaty with Moscow aimed at reducing deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 on each side, down from 2,200, by February 2018. But to win Republican support for the treaty in 2010, Mr. Obama made a Faustian bargain, promising to spend $84 billion to upgrade aging nuclear weapons over the next decade, a $14 billion increase over the regular $70 billion modernization budget.

But the Congressional Budget Office now estimates that Mr. Obama’s plans will cost $355 billion over the next decade; other studies put the price at $1 trillion over three decades. The wish list includes 12 new missile submarines, up to 100 new bombers, 400 land-based missiles, plus upgrades to eight major plants and laboratories.

There has been little debate among members of Congress and the public about the decision by Mr. Obama and Congress to pour billions of dollars into new nuclear weapons systems - even as other government programs have been cut significantly.

Not only is this spending unwise and beyond what the nation can afford, multiple studies by the Government Accountability Office have described the modernization push as badly managed. In a statement released on Monday, nuclear weapons experts from the Arms Control Association, the Federation of American Scientists and others called the modernization plan excessive and said the country can reduce the number of missiles and bombers it buys and still maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal.

Worse yet, the administration is making a foolish trade-off - pouring money into modernization while reducing funds that help improve security at nuclear sites in Russia and other countries where terrorists or criminals could get their hands on nuclear materials.

Since Mr. Obama took office, he has pushed the international community to improve nuclear security. The result is that 13 countries have eliminated their nuclear materials stockpiles and 15 others removed or disposed of portions of theirs. But a report by experts at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government says the Obama administration’s proposed 2015 budget would cut spending for nuclear security by 21 percent, from $700 million this year to $555 million. While Congress restored some of that money in a stopgap spending bill, it expires in December and no one knows what happens after that.

Fortunately, 26 senators have recognized that such cuts are dangerous and urged that they be reversed. Investing in nuclear security protects Americans more than unwise investment in new nuclear weapons.


Online: https://nyti.ms/1B3uZLa

The Watertown Daily Times on the results of the independence referendum in Scotland.

Sept. 22

Well, the spirit of William Wallace will have to return to the netherworld for now.

Residents of Scotland decided last week that being part of the United Kingdom isn’t all that bad after all. The issue of becoming an independent nation was rejected during a referendum held Thursday, with 55 percent of voters casting ballots against the measure and 45 percent supporting it.

Analysts will pore over the statistics to determine why an increasingly popular idea was soundly defeated at the polls. We, however, have come up with some new evidence of what happened. With all apologies to David Letterman, here are our “Top 10 Reasons Why Scots Voted Against Independence”:

No. 10: Queen Elizabeth promised to let locals stay up past their bedtime during an overnight at Balmoral Castle.

No. 9: All the really cool names for new global currency are already taken.

No. 8: Tourists were informed that haggis isn’t a new dance craze.

No. 7: Apple Computer won’t have to surrender the name Macintosh.

No. 6: John Boehner wouldn’t commit to leading the Scottish Parliament.

No. 5: James Bond’s license to kill would have been reduced to a learner’s permit.

No. 4: Glasgow mistakenly believed it could host next year’s Super Bowl.

No. 3: A United Nations committee suspects that climate change is being caused by Highland bagpipes.

No. 2: Kilts are sooooo 1990s.

And the No. 1 reason why Scots voted against independence: Scottish polling places were operated by Irish precinct captains.



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