- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

Newsday on banning microbeads.

April 21

Earth Day turns 45 on April 22. Social media is barely a teenager. But the forces behind each are coming together to provoke change.

In New York, the State Assembly is set to vote today on a bill to ban microbeads from personal care products. Social media campaigns already have led numerous corporations to say they will remove the tiny plastic pellets from product lines.

Microbeads are plastic bits used as exfoliants in products ranging from face scrubs to toothpaste, and replaced such natural abrasives as crushed almonds and pumice. One tube of facial cleanser can have as many as 360,000 microbeads. Once they wash down our drains, they’re not filtered or broken down by treatment plants and end up in rivers and oceans. Then they absorb toxins, are eaten by fish and other aquatic life and enter the food chain. A study by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found 1.3 tons of microbeads are discharged yearly in Nassau County. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are inundated.

A Schneiderman bill to ban microbeads in personal care products is likely to pass the Assembly, as it did last year before dying in the Senate. The Senate has a weaker version that affects fewer products. The Senate needs to get with the times and adopt the Assembly bill.

New Jersey has banned microbeads. So has Illinois. Connecticut and other states have legislation. Pushed by social media, companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Avon, and Procter & Gamble, have pledged to get rid of microbeads in some or all products. But the pledges are voluntary. Legislation is needed to make sure it happens.




The Staten-Island Advance on public pensions in New York.

April 21

New Yorkers are used to seeing the leaders of various municipal employees unions get hot and bothered about relatively trivial issues. It’s who they are; it’s what they do. Being anything but shrinking violets, these outspoken union bosses like the attention their outrage generates. And being seen as standing up in defense of their supposedly put-upon members always helps when they run for re-election.

But even understanding that phenomenon, we’re at a loss to understand the righteous indignation of several fire unions over a ruling that the New York City Fire Pension Fund must make public the name and pension amounts received by retirees.

The controversy was stirred up by a ruling last May by the state Court of Appeals in the case of Empire Center v. New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. In it, the court unanimously held that the public has the right to know the names as well as pension amounts of retired public employees.

With that ruling on the record, the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative watchdog group that has highlighted the looming threat to the state and city’s finances posed by skyrocketing public pension costs, filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to get information about Fire Department retirees’ pensions from the New York City Fire Pension Fund.

But Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854 and Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 sued in state Supreme Court to block the release of that information, arguing that retirees had a right to privacy and that disclosure of their names would put them at risk.

How that disclosure poses any threat whatsoever to retirees, we’re still not exactly sure. Neither was the court, apparently. Last week, a Brooklyn state Supreme Court justice ordered the New York City Fire Pension Fund to comply with the center’s FOIL request for the pension information.

“This is another win for openness,” said Tim Hoefer, the executive director of the Empire Center. “We hope the New York City Fire Pension Fund will promptly comply with Judge Sweeney’s order and provide us with the information we asked for nearly a year ago.”




The New York Daily News on President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

April 21

In selling his nuclear deal with the Iranians, President Obama says that his “historic understanding” would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”

He asks the American people to trust his word and judgment. That trust must be denied, because Obama hasn’t been straight with the American people about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

When he unveiled his tentative deal, Obama made the shocking revelation that Iran was “only two or three months away from potentially acquiring the raw materials that could be used for a single nuclear bomb.”

How close Iran has been to that “break out” threshold has been central to the question of how urgently Obama has needed to confront the mullahs.

Before visiting Israel in 2013, the President said there was plenty of time to negotiate, since Iran was “over a year or so” from a nuclear weapon, leaving “a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically.”

After Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu warned that Iran was just six months from a nuclear weapon, Obama scoffed that the mullahs were “a year or more away” - a timeframe he said “is probably more conservative than the estimates of Israeli intelligence services.”

But those weren’t the facts at all, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Talking to Bloomberg View Monday, Muniz revealed that, actually, the administration has known for the last few years that Iran was just months away from having the fissile material for a true weapon of mass destruction.

The evidence says Obama hid a critical truth to achieve his aims. Trust him now? No way.




The Post-Standard of Syracuse on ISIS in America.

April 21

The 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing came and went this past weekend without the collective national pause that usually accompanies our nation’s days of infamy, Dec. 7 and Sept. 11.

Maybe we’d prefer not to remember how unprepared the nation was for a terrorist attack, how quickly we blamed the usual suspects (dark, foreign, fundamentalist) and how shocked we were to discover that a homegrown terrorist named Timothy McVeigh (white, American, anti-government) detonated the bomb.

Eighteen years later, on another Patriot’s Day, terrorists struck again at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring scores of people. The Tsarnaev brothers were not homegrown but nonetheless called the United States home. The U.S. counterterrorism apparatus, better than it was in 1995 and 2001, nevertheless failed to detect the danger in our midst.

But we learned from the tragedies. Government buildings became fortresses. (One of the first things to change in 1995 was to ban traffic from Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. You used to be able to drive right past.) On Monday, an unprecedented level of security was seen at the Boston Marathon.

Now Americans have a new worry: the homegrown terrorist, who sympathizes with the so-called Islamic State and travels to training camps in Africa and the Middle East, returns home on an American passport and waits for an opportunity to strike.

We appear to be readier this time.

News reports suggest law enforcement is having some success penetrating the Islamic State’s recruiting network. Over the weekend, six Minnesota men of Somali descent were arrested - four in Minneapolis and two in San Diego - for trying to join ISIS in Syria. This comes on the heels of a string of arrests across the country and around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Twenty years ago, McVeigh proved how hard it was to detect the enemy within. Two years ago, the Tsarnaevs repeated the lesson. The question isn’t whether there will be another terrorist attack on American soil; it’s when. Are we prepared?




The Press-Republican on the Aaron Hernandez verdict.

April 17

Wednesday’s guilty verdict against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for first-degree murder fascinates the public, of course.

When celebrities go wrong, people hunger for every detail; they want to get to know the “other side” of the people they have read or heard so much about.

How, we have to wonder, can someone with seemingly everything squander it all through actions prompted by anger, fear, arrogance?

Hernandez was a tight end with rare stardom, virtually unlimited amounts of money and incalculable glory. On a football field, he was practically unstoppable.

In his personal conduct, sadly, he was also next to unstoppable.

The jury agreed that he had teamed with two friends to shoot - six times - associate Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee and mother of his daughter.

The reasons for the murder have not been officially fully explained, though prosecutors believe they are tied to two murders in 2012. In that case, two men were shot dead, allegedly over a spilled drink. Authorities have charged Hernandez with those deaths, as well. And even that was not his first brush with irrational violence.

After the killing of Odin Lloyd, who was 27, Hernandez went home, lounged by the pool and played with his baby, betraying no visual evidence of a guilty conscience after having taken a life.

The New England Patriots fired Hernandez at once upon learning of his charges and this past season won a Super Bowl partially because of the excellence of another tight end, Rob Gronkowski - demonstrating that no player is indispensable.




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