- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Times Herald-Record of Middletown on recommendations to start school days later so students can be better rested.

Aug. 31

This last weekend before the new school year begins for most New York students is a good time to consider a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that starting classes an hour or so later would have many benefits.

The report, timed not so coincidentally to reach parents and others as households start adjusting to school time, relies on science and promotes the many benefits of a later start.

When students are more rested and alert, they do better in class. That is more of an assumption than a proven fact, but there are enough studies to indicate that it is worth considering. And there is no evidence that says starting the school day even earlier than it does now would have any benefit.

The other advantages come in the same general categories. Let students, especially the older ones who drive to school, get more sleep and they are less likely to get into accidents. Delay the starting time a bit and students are less likely to be late, to miss the first few periods or to decide that they might as well skip the rest of the day having missed some classes already. There actually are studies backing up that assumption.

The arguments against a later start focus not so much on calculating the most beneficial hour as they do on the disruptions that would come from changing what has become the norm.

Bus schedules would have to change, although there are some studies that show this does not necessarily have to increase costs. After-school activities would start and end later, although that also does not necessarily add any costs.

What prompted the pediatricians to make their recommendation was a substantial body of evidence that shows youngsters, especially teens in high school, need more sleep than they are now getting. Districts that pushed back the start time by an hour were able to find many of the expected benefits and few of the anticipated problems.

And there is some evidence that the main objection of those who resist this idea, that students will merely stay up an hour later and get no more rest, is not necessarily true. While the findings of these studies rely on self-reporting, many of those districts who changed their schedules have found that students go to bed around the same time they do now and really do get the advantage of that extra hour in the morning.

Anyone interested in the subject should start with a visit to the website of the National Sleep Foundation - sleepfoundation.org - and get educated about the state of the research.

With school about to start, this is not a discussion that will have any effect on the new year. But parents should be concerned that their children get the amount of sleep they need, an amount that most doctors say most youngsters are not getting when school is in session.

And there’s another reason for parents to take up this cause. School districts set their own schedules, and this is one of the few areas where local concerns have a chance to make a real difference.




The Times Union of Albany on restoring connections between cities and their rivers.

Sept. 2

Almost as soon as construction began on Albany’s “riverfront arterial” in the 1960s, ideas were being hatched to mitigate the negative impact of the immense steel and concrete barrier that cut off the city from its historic waterfront.

The superhighway, now Interstate 787, is what thousands of state workers and others use to quickly get in and out of the Empire State Plaza and elsewhere in downtown Albany. In that respect, it does exactly what it was designed to do.

Today, virtually everyone recognizes that designers made a grotesque error by not retaining the port city’s connection to the Hudson River. The mistake has been highlighted as countless other communities have experienced rich growth and new vibrancy by exploiting their waterfronts with new commercial, residential and recreational developments.

Some attribute the flawed riverfront arterial plan to the city’s focus at the time on the much bigger project under way, the relocation of 9,000 city residents and clearing of 98 acres for construction of the Empire State Plaza.

In the decades since I-787 was built, millions of dollars have been spent to build a walkway above it and to expand underpasses, modest attempts to restore some connection between downtown and the river. In the 1990s, then-Mayor Jerry Jennings even pushed a proposal resembling Boston’s Big Dig - putting a portion of I-787 underground. An estimate that it would cost up to $5 billion squelched that idea.

Now, a new study will explore ways to overcome the obstacles created by I-787. It’s a good idea.

The $320,000 study won’t look exclusively at downtown Albany. Instead, it will explore ways to get over, under and around the highway in all the communities it bisects, including Watervliet, Menands and a part of Colonie.

One idea the review should seriously consider is removing a stretch of the raised highways downtown, creating a pedestrian friendly, grade-level roadway with traffic signals and crosswalks. Yes, that would slow traffic, but it could spur private development to service Albany’s growing downtown population. It could attract others from the region to the city’s waterfront, which has been the experience in Boston and Baltimore after similar upgrades.

Such an “urban boulevard” would encourage carpooling and promote alternate routes in and out of downtown, perhaps including increased use of the Thruway via Exit 23, at the city’s South End. Ultimately, it could provide justification for expanded bus service or a light rail system.

The study will take a year and will also consider ways to deal with the rail line that runs parallel to I-787 through downtown.

Maybe in another 50 years, an Albany generation will look back not with the regret we have for the actions of a half-century ago, but with appreciation for the foresight the city could show this time around.




The New York Daily News on the UN Human Rights Council’s war crimes investigation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Aug. 31

Before Israel or Hamas signed a ceasefire agreement, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva assembled a kangaroo court led by a blatantly anti-Israel judge to investigate international law abuses.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should be ashamed for allowing the world body to be party to a predetermined indictment that will feed into the movement to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The council’s appointment of a lead investigator with a history of vilifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates distressingly that Ban learned nothing from the debacle that followed the 2009 war between Hamas and Israel.

There, too, the council named an anti-Israel partisan to spearhead a war crimes inquiry. Richard Goldstone led that a panel to conclude Israel had potentially committed crimes against humanity, only to renounce the finding two years later - after incalculable damage had been done.

This time, the council’s executioner is Canadian Prof. William Schabas, who carries such an ax against Israel that he said last year he would like to see Netanyahu “within the dock of the International Criminal Court.”

Schabas also drew a parallel between the genocidal murder of hundreds of thousands of people by the Sudanese government and Israel’s conduct, asking, “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza?”

Still worse, a Palestinian-sponsored resolution charges the Council’s three-member panel not with determining whether violations of international law were committed, but to document “the crimes perpetrated” by Israel.

The resolution goes on to condemn - before a single fact has been found - Israel’s supposed “widespread, systematic and gross violations,” which it characterizes as “wanton destruction.”

Israel fought a war of self-defense after Hamas fired rockets indiscriminately, and kept firing them, breaking ceasefire after ceasefire. Far too many have blamed Israel for fulfilling a nation’s fundamental obligation to protect itself.

Ban has allowed Israel-hating countries to put the UN’s prestige behind them.




The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on the U.S. economy and Republicans in Congress threatening a government shutdown.

Sept. 1

For the first Labor Day in years, Americans who labor - and those who want to - have something to celebrate. Consistent private-sector job creation, increased economic growth and an uptick in business investment have brightened the employment picture considerably.

But with the nation’s economic engine finally primed, Congress stands poised to throw a wrench into the gears: Republican lawmakers are again raising the specter of a government shutdown - this time over the immigration issue. For the good of America’s workers, the still-recovering economy and a brinksmanship-weary public, such suggestions should be taken outside and given the “ice bucket challenge” treatment.

After all, an economic disruption couldn’t come at a worse time. Not only did the economy grow at a 4.2 percent clip during the second quarter of this year, the private sector has created more than 200,000 jobs a month since January - and, as President Obama pointed out last week, nearly 10 million new jobs over the past four and half years.

And that’s not all: Companies are investing in equipment and inventory, job vacancies in May were a best-since-2007 4.6 million, stocks are at or near record highs and consumer confidence continues to improve.

These trends bode well for the Rochester region, which has already done spade work in terms of potential growth at high-tech facilities like the Eastman Business Park and the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in Genesee County.

Congress deserves some of the credit for the improved business climate. It’s no coincidence that the economy began generating jobs, and private firms loosened their investment purse strings, on the heels of the compromise two-year budget deal hammered out by Obama and congressional leaders last December. The ongoing uncertainty of gridlock and fiscal cliffhangers was a huge drag on the economy.

So it’s concerning that, in response to Obama’s stated intention to take executive action to address immigration issues ignored by Congress, Republicans like Rep. Steve King of Iowa are threatening to shut off government funding for 2015. Such short memories some GOP lawmakers have: The 16-day government shutdown in 2013 was estimated to have taken $24 billion out of the U.S. economy. Thanks for nothing.

For years, the mantra in Washington has been “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Prove it. Find a way to debate immigration that doesn’t involve holding the government, a long-awaited job-producing economy and millions of American workers hostage.




The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on the NFL’s discipline policy and handling of domestic violence cases.

Sept. 2

In any large group of people, you’re bound to find a few bad apples. Sometimes, the National Football League seems to have a whole orchard.

The NFL has been the target lately of well-deserved criticism for wielding a heavy hammer against pot smokers and drug abusers while dealing far more gently with players who beat up their wives and girlfriends.

But the league has finally listened and acted.

As the Associated Press pointed out in a recent article, the league banished Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for the entire 2014-15 season for testing positive for marijuana. Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was disqualified for a laughable two games for knocking his then-fiancee unconscious on an elevator.

The disparity was so reflective of distorted values that it exposed the league to widespread criticism and calls by many groups for a boycott of games.

All professional leagues are populated by talented individuals. Basketball has the tallest, most agile athletes in the world. Baseball has people who have mastered the single most difficult concentrated function is sports: hitting a speeding baseball squarely with a round bat. Hockey has athletes who can do on skinny blades what many civilians can’t do on flat feet.

But football stands alone as having the biggest, strongest, fastest men in America, who have spent years honing their bodies and skills for an afternoon of violence.

These men have been pampered because of their strength and agility and have become rich and widely adored.

They are the natural role models for countless kids who go to bed at night and dream of a brush with their favorite player or of that same storied career.

Occasionally, an NFL player will be so extreme in his anti-social behavior that the law will step in. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is currently facing life in prison for murder.

But otherwise, violence is so much a part of the sport that league administrators couldn’t seem to recognize that, off the field, it is very much a sin to society. How else could you explain that a pot smoker is treated by the league so much more harshly than a thug?

But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week admitted the league had been wrong. From now on, a player proven to have physically abused a woman will be benched, without pay, for six games. A second incident could get a lifetime suspension.

Justice and right thinking prevail.

The last thing America needs is little boys thinking it’s OK to throttle girls.




Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide