- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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

The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on expanding local control on state projects.

July 25

The state government has a bad habit of making exemptions for itself, often at the expense of the local communities where the impact of their decisions will be felt most.

One of those special situations allows projects that are under state control to be exempt from the authority of local planning and design review boards.

While these projects are subject to state environmental reviews, developers for the most part are only required to involve local governments on an advisory basis.

That means they’re essentially free to ignore any potential negative impacts of a project that don’t fall under strict state guidelines, even if the municipality that’s home to the project has legitimate concerns. It’s essentially up to the developer how much input and influence it wants to give local officials and their citizens.

Saratoga Springs has had a lot of experience being on the wrong side of that stick lately, first with the expansion at the Saratoga Gaming racino and now with planned and ongoing improvements at the Saratoga Race Course.

With the racino expansion, which includes a new hotel, city officials last year considered seeking lead agency status to give them more say in the project’s impacts. But they backed down when they realized they were unlikely to get it.

Now city officials are trying to get a bigger role in the multi-million-dollar improvements at the track, which include a new luxury clubhouse, a kitchen building, new stables and jockey housing.

Improvements have impacts. And city officials are concerned that the city’s sewer infrastructure, already stressed by the track, won’t be able to handle the extra load from the new buildings. They’re also concerned about the impact additional delivery trucks accessing the track’s new kitchen will have on Wright Street neighborhood traffic.

And while it’s in the New York Racing Association’s best interests to maintain the historic charm of the current facility, the association is not obligated to let the city’s planners or historic architecture people make more than suggestions.




The Syracuse Post-Standard on letting the market determine minimum wage in NY.

July 28

When legislation to hike the minimum wage stalled in Albany this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo exploited a quirk in state labor law that allows the labor commissioner to set minimum wage by industry.

Last week, to no one’s surprise, a wage board created at the governor’s direction recommended that a $15 per hour minimum wage be phased in for 200,000 fast food workers across the state. New York City workers will see $15 by 2018 and the rest of the state by 2021. That’s almost double the current minimum wage of $8.75 per hour.

As the state’s executive, the governor has no role in setting the minimum wage. That’s a policy decision for Senate and Assembly members, who have a duty to look out for all workers, no matter what industry they’re in.

We call on the legislature to repeal that portion of the state’s minimum wage law, Section 655, that allows the labor commissioner to impanel wage boards to look at the salaries paid by individual industries.

Until the law is repealed, Cuomo will have the ability to set wages for any industry across the state. Which industry will be his next target? Home health care workers, factory workers, truckers?

Employers must retain the right to set wages by what the market will bear, and wages will rise as companies compete for better skilled workers.

There are many people still on the bottom rung. New York has 1.25 million other workers, who receive a minimum wage for work in industries other than fast food, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. A $15 minimum wage for fast food workers doesn’t directly benefit them. If anything, they’ll need to wait for the job market to increase their wages. Alternatively, we may find a rush to fast food positions forcing out those Cuomo intended to see the increase.

We ask the legislature to address the task of setting a fair minimum wage for all workers. But, first it must repeal the wage board law and take the governor out of the equation.




The Middletown Times Herald-Record on the possibility of car hacking.

July 24

It’s a scenario out of a Stephen King novel: A driver cruising along a busy highway suddenly finds his car taken over by an outside force. First it’s just the radio, the wipers and the air conditioning behaving chaotically. Then - as an 18-wheeler bears down at high speed - the transmission shuts down.

All this actually happened to the Wired journalist Andy Greenberg recently when he agreed to let two hackers go to work on an Internet-connected Jeep he was driving. The hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, have been conducting government-funded research into the security of smart auto systems. They were able to take control of the Jeep from 10 miles away. Some 471,000 cars on the road are vulnerable to such attacks, they estimate. Their experiment should serve as a wake- up call to car manufacturers - and everyone else.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, more and more everyday objects are being rigged with sensors and connected to the Internet. By 2020, 50 billion such devices may be online. This phenomenon, known as the Internet of Things, promises all sorts of benefits to companies and consumers alike. But many of the manufacturers involved have little experience with digital security, and few customers know how to properly protect their cars (or toothbrushes) from malicious hacking.

As a result, commonplace items such as baby monitors, room locks and medical devices have already been hacked. Manufacturers should expect this to continue, and prepare for it to get worse before it gets better. That means making cybersecurity something more than an afterthought when designing new products. It also means being upfront with consumers about exactly what those products are doing and sharing online.

As for carmakers, their vulnerabilities have been evident for years. Congress has badgered them on the topic repeatedly. Although they’re starting a group to pool cybersecurity data, called Auto-ISAC, there’s a lot more they could do. For starters, they should boost investment in technology that can detect digital intrusions, and start automatically issuing security updates to their software. More important, they should ensure that critical controls, such as brakes and steering systems, are isolated from components that could be hacked. They should also make wider use of outside security researchers - for example, by offering “bug bounties” to hackers who can identify vulnerabilities. A rating system that evaluates their progress, as a pending bill in Congress proposes, could help consumers determine which companies are taking cybersecurity seriously.

Carmakers have long competed on safety. They now need to broaden their definition of it to encompass the digital age.




The New York Times on Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.

July 27

Late last week, Turkey significantly escalated its involvement in Syria’s civil war by carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and announcing that it would allow American military aircraft targeting the terrorist group to fly sorties out of Turkey.

These moves by Turkey, a NATO member that has one of the most powerful militaries in the region and has long been wary of deeper engagement in the Syrian war, could substantially bolster efforts to fight the Islamic State. But that shift was immediately followed by a dangerous development that will create even more turmoil in the region.

On Friday, Turkish war planes launched airstrikes against the camps of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., a guerrilla group that operates out of remote regions in northern Iraq. The attack ended a truce between the Ankara government and the Kurdish militants that has largely held since 2013. Turkey’s opportunistic decision to conflate the risks posed by the Islamic State with its three-decade conflict with Kurdish separatists could set back the broader efforts of the American-led coalition.

This new phase of the war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which appears most likely to lead to the establishment of a de facto no-fly zone over regions of northern Syria, is unfolding with virtually no meaningful input from Congress. Having failed to reach a consensus over the scope and nature of an authorization of war that would have set parameters for Washington’s involvement in Iraq and Syria, lawmakers appear resigned to allowing the Obama administration to slide ever more deeply into a complex war.

Having sought Turkey’s greater involvement in Syria for a long time, American officials appear reluctant to criticize Turkey’s bombing of the P.K.K. Brett McGurk, a State Department official who is among those leading the effort against the Islamic State, noted in a statement over the weekend that the United States played no role in the airstrikes against the Kurdish group, but recognized Turkey’s “right to self-defense.”

In launching new attacks against the P.K.K. and engaging in the war against the Islamic State, Turkey appears motivated by a desire to stem the proliferation of armed Kurdish groups along its border. The Kurds, an ethnic group in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, have long wanted to carve out a sovereign state in the region. That threat will not be reduced by escalating the conflict, which could potentially be resolved through negotiation.

In the short term, Turkey’s action is counterproductive for fighting ISIS. A Syrian offshoot of the P.K.K. known as the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., has been among the most reliable allies for the American military in Syria, as it has desperately sought fighters it can trust in Syria to hold down terrain.

If Turkey were to focus on routing the Islamic State, the multinational fight could possibly gain more traction. Allowing American war planes to operate out of Turkey significantly cuts down flight time to and from targets. Turkey also appears more willing than ever to take meaningful steps to choke off the Islamic State’s pipelines of fighters and money. Those are important steps. But Turkey’s simultaneous campaign against the Kurds could seriously undermine those efforts.




Newsday on gun violence in the United States.

July 24

We’ve heard the words and felt the frustration.

This time it was the police chief in Lafayette, Louisiana, speaking in the aftermath of another anguishing spasm of gun violence.

“Why this city, why this movie, why those people?” Jim Craft wondered.

The answer is because in this country, it could be anywhere, anytime, anyone. We’ve seen it so often we know the roll call, and the horrors each name evokes.

It’s Aurora, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Newtown, Connecticut; Fort Hood, Texas; Columbine, Colorado; Santa Barbara, California; Tucson, Arizona; Blacksburg, West Virginia; Chattanooga, Tennessee. And now, Lafayette.

It’s a movie theater, a church, an elementary school, a military base, a high school, a sorority house, a supermarket, a college campus, a military recruiting center. And now, another theater.

It’s young men who hated. It’s men with mental illness. It’s men with guns.

Mass killings dominate news cycles. Other shootings, often with illegal guns sold in NYC and around the country, fill the stat sheet.

An emotional Barack Obama, just hours before a deranged drifter opened fire in the Lafayette cinema, said gun safety is the area in which he’s been most frustrated in six years as president. The number of Americans killed by terrorism since 9/11, he said, is less than 100. The number lost to gun violence in that time is in the tens of thousands.

How can we not get serious about treating our national problem? Why won’t we act to keep “instruments of death” - the term used by the father of an Aurora victim in the wake of the slaughter in Lafayette - out of the hands of those incapable of using them responsibly? Why is someone always lamenting not having intervened to get help for someone so clearly in need of it? When will we finally confront our culture of violence?

We’ve had enough wake-up calls. How many must die before we listen?




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