- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on the need for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that would ensure patients have access to abuse deterrent medication.

Aug. 7

Make no mistake, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing many, many things to combat opioid abuse and addiction in New York, and we are leading the country in a number of ways.

But, there is another powerful step he could take that would require nothing more than a pen.

Cuomo is sitting on legislation that would ensure patients have access to abuse deterrent medication. The bill passed in both the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic Assembly - not just once, but twice. Last year, Cuomo vetoed a very similar measure passed by state legislators.

Abuse deterrent opioids are pain pills that either can’t be crushed or dissolved, or don’t work very well if they are. Users don’t get the same kind of high that can come from traditional opioids, so the new formulas are less likely to cause addiction or lead to an overdose.

It is uncertain what impact that will have on our nation’s opioid epidemic. These drugs are very new to the market, having just surfaced in 2010. There is not a comprehensive body of public health research showing that they are an effective tool.

But, there are signs that they might be. In one of the first studies of these new drugs, a Harvard team of researchers found that when the drugs hit the market, the nation’s overdose rate caused by prescription drugs decreased by 20 percent over the next two years. There were other things happening at the same time, such as the discontinuance of a much-prescribed painkiller, so questions remain.

Still, the technology shows promise.

Promise, alone, is usually reason for caution. In an ideal world, we would not recommend a policy change without more substantial data and a better understanding of potential, unintended consequences. For example, in the Harvard study mentioned above, the decrease in opioid prescription overdoses was met with a 23 percent increase in heroin overdoses as addicts switched over. But we are in crisis mode, and lives are being destroyed every day.

Abuse deterrent opioids might not be a good option for patients who are already addicted. They might, however, be appropriate for others who are at risk of becoming addicted, or who have family members who are.

However, insurance companies aren’t letting doctors and patients make that decision. The drugs can be more than twice as expensive as traditional opioids. So some insurance plans require patients to use a non-abuse deterrent opioid first, increase the co-payment, or don’t cover the cost of the new drugs at all. The legislation sitting on Cuomo’s desk would stop those practices - putting the interests of patients and physicians first - and quite likely adding another weapon to fight this enormous, and expensive, public health battle.

The law would cost New York taxpayers more to cover state benefits. New Jersey’s governor concluded a similar measure could cost that state more than $11 million, but it’s not clear how much would be saved if fewer people were to become addicted. We’re spending millions in federal and state dollars for treatment and enforcement. An ongoing cost-benefit analysis is definitely in order.

But, ensuring consumer access to these drugs is supported by the legislature, as well as law enforcement, substance abuse organizations, civil rights groups and even the governor’s own Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Cuomo should add his name to the list.

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Online:

https://on.rocne.ws/2biJZk7

The Syracuse Post-Standard on the state Public Service Commission ratifying Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard, which requires 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Aug. 3

On Monday, the state’s Public Service Commission unanimously ratified Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard. The standard requires 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

It was the right thing to do.

It puts New York on an aggressive path to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The PSC’s decision also shows that nuclear power is as vital as wind and solar in meeting that goal. It makes nuclear power an environmental asset. It shows you can’t reduce greenhouse gases without nuclear, and it puts in place a nuclear subsidy for 12 years.

Support for nuclear power does not sit well with all environmentalists, but it was telling that the governor’s staff could quickly circulate statements from a number of environmental organizations supporting not only the 50 percent goal, but the maintenance of nuclear power. Opponents ignore the fact that 31 percent of the energy produced in New York is from nuclear.

If the only mission were to push renewable energy sources, the PSC’s nuclear subsidy would not be praiseworthy. But it’s not that simple.

We would not favor building new nuclear power plants. But the three in Oswego County already exist, and the issue of safely containing radioactivity remains even if the plants shut down.

If the plants were to close soon, the generating capacity would be filled by other sources, probably natural gas. While fracking has made natural gas cheaper in the short term, switching to it does not reduce greenhouse emissions. It does not move New York in the right direction.

We do not favor a blank check for nuclear subsidies. The state must evaluate them regularly and Monday’s action sets up a review at least every three years. When the price of natural gas or competing fuels goes up, making nuclear competitive on its own, the subsidy should go down or end.

Subsidies should be a bridge to a worthy public goal, not a permanent entitlement.

In Central New York, the PSC decision is praiseworthy for a more parochial concern as well. The three nuclear generating plants in Oswego County employ more than 1,500 people. They are skilled, highly trained and well paid.

Last year, Entergy announced it would close its FitzPatrick plant in January. Efforts by business leaders and state officials to keep it generating electricity have failed. Now Exelon, owner of the two neighboring Nine Mile plants, is trying to buy FitzPatrick from Entergy. The PSC action on Monday makes Exelon believe FitzPatrick is worth operating.

We urge Exelon and Entergy to reach a deal. There is urgency because FitzPatrick refueling needs to happen soon. The economic impact of closing would be harsh in Oswego County.

The PSC decision dealt with other issues. One is the transmission of power generated Upstate to markets that need it downstate. The state is wise to turn attention to this issue. Whatever the source of electricity, New York’s economic future should not teeter on old bottlenecks.

The Clean Energy Standard positions New York as a leader in new ways of generating electricity. It makes manufacturing of emerging technologies more likely in New York. It forces the state to explore or expand energy sources - like wind farms off the coast of Long Island or geothermal pumps.

Some day, fossil fuel will no longer be the planet’s chief energy source. America - and New York - should be inventing and building new sources. We should not let that fall to Europe, China or other international competitors. America should lead this industry, and it is wise of Gov. Cuomo and the Public Service Commission to put New York in the forefront.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ayvhHn

The Oneonta Daily Star on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s words regarding the U.S. military.

Aug. 5

During the Vietnam War, about 648,000 Americans were drafted into our armed forces.

Donald J. Trump was not one of them.

Trump, the Republican nominee for president, received four student deferments beginning in 1972 while he attended Fordham University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. After he graduated in 1968, Trump would have become eligible for the draft, except this son of a multimillionaire was granted a 1-Y medical deferment and later 4-F status because, he told The New York Times, he had bone spurs in one of his heels.

“I had a doctor that gave me a letter - a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump said.

In an interview last year, he said he could not recall which heel it was.

During the Vietnam War, John McCain, now the senior senator from Arizona, served more than five years in Hanoi as a prisoner of war. This son of a prominent admiral had not waited to be drafted. He enlisted in the Navy and his plane was shot down over Vietnam.

McCain was tortured, but refused to give his captors anything but name, rank and serial number. He turned down an early release because he felt prisoners who had been there longer should go first. To this day, his injuries in service to his country make it impossible to raise his arms above his head.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at a campaign event in June 2015. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

McCain, in a tough primary and general election battle for his Senate seat, has criticized Trump, but has not withdrawn his endorsement. This week, Trump gave him the back of his hand by falsely claiming McCain had not been there for veterans.

Republican Jeff Flake, Arizona’s junior senator, said Trump’s comments were “just laughable, frankly, if it weren’t so serious.”

Taken to task at the Democratic Convention by retired four-star general John Allen for advocating illegally torturing prisoners and “taking out” the families of terrorists, Trump lashed out at the former commander of our troops in Afghanistan.

“You know who he is? He’s a failed general,” Trump said. “He was the general fighting ISIS. I would say he hasn’t done so well, right?”

Clearly, when it pertains to military matters, Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking … and talking . and talking about.

He describes an American military that is underfunded and in disarray, when the U.S. is the mightiest nation on Earth and spends more on defense spending than the next seven countries combined.

He threatens our nation’s most important alliance by saying he would not necessarily come to the aid of some NATO countries should they come under attack unless they pay their full dues. He also blusters about pulling American troops out of Japan, South Korea and other important foreign posts where they’ve honorably served for decades to foster peace.

He has made simplistic promises to wipe out ISIS without any explanation of how he would do it.

And perhaps most egregiously, after being called out at the Democratic Convention for his anti-Muslim immigration policy by the Muslim parents of an Army captain who died heroically in Iraq in 2004, Trump could not help entering into a six-day war of words with this couple who know a heartache that Trump apparently cannot even fathom.

Veterans in our community, local men and women serving in our military defending our liberty, and all of us who are protected from - as our country’s Oath of Allegiance states - “enemies foreign and domestic” deserve far better than insults from Donald Trump.

Every American has need to question whether we want a candidate with this history of disrespecting our military personnel and purpose as our next commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful fighting force.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2aG9k5L

The Albany Times Union on the need for Congress to reconvene and vote on a Zika bill as the Obama administration warns that money to fight the virus is about to run out.

Aug. 8

The number of confirmed cases of Zika in the continental U.S. now has exceeded 1,800, making the fight against the dangerous virus even more urgent. Yet funds needed to defeat the disease are drying up - another casualty of our dysfunctional Congress.

Members of Congress started their summer recess last month in another nasty deadlock, this time over President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funds to halt the virus’ spread and to fast-track development of a vaccine. Nearly all the U.S. cases are people who traveled here after being infected elsewhere but, ominously, last week 15 cases believed spread by mosquito bites were reported in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In February the mosquito-borne illness was declared an international public health emergency after outbreaks across Latin America. Heart-wrenching images of babies born with the birth defect microcephaly after their mothers were infected with Zika were followed by predictions that the virus would soon make its way to the U.S. Instead of taking necessary action, some members of Congress played their usual games.

The Republican-led Congress pared down Obama’s request to $1.1 billion, then attached some objectionable strings to the bill - like cutting Ebola protection funds by $107 million, restricting Planned Parenthood’s ability to advise expectant mothers infected with Zika and loosening environmental regulations on pesticides that have nothing to do with controlling the spread of Zika. In what can only be described as bizarre, language was also added to reverse a ban on displaying the Confederate flag at federal cemeteries. Perhaps GOP leaders figured they could remove that ridiculous rider and boast that they had compromised.

This was all unacceptable to Democrats, who said the imminent public health crisis meant members of Congress should stop their usual partisan dithering. The stalemate continued until July, when lawmakers left town for seven weeks.

Now the Obama administration warns that money to fight Zika is about to run out, which will mean Americans would have to wait longer for a vaccine.

A partisan fight over critical funding for such a real and present threat to our country in inexcusable. Congress set aside politics two years ago when the Ebola outbreak was exploding across West Africa, allocating $5.4 billion to support our emergency response. Where is that spirit now?

Citing the urgency for the emergency money, many Democrats are urging Speaker Paul Ryan to reconvene the House to act on a bipartisan Zika bill that had passed the Senate. Some may call it partisan posturing; to us, it looks more like a legitimate call.

It won’t hurt House members to interrupt their summer recess (or re-election campaigns) for a day to return to Washington - to do what they were elected to do in the first place.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2biO0VJ

Newsday on how the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro celebrate athletic achievement and common humanity, but also offer a sometimes grim reflection of the world.

Aug. 5

Don’t open your mouth.

That’s advice usually given to criminal defendants, protesters in totalitarian countries and headstrong politicians. Nowadays, it’s what health experts say must be done by Olympic sailors, rowers and open-water swimmers competing in the human waste-laden waters of Rio de Janeiro.

On that disquieting note, the opening ceremony takes place tonight.

The contaminated water that officials promised to treat but never did is a metaphor for a disturbing run-up to these Olympic Games - staged by Brazil, a country in political and economic crisis, and by a city struggling with street crime and poor infrastructure.

At their best, the games celebrate athletic achievement and our common humanity amid a marvelous panoply of cultural diversity. But as we see time and again, the Olympics are not an escape from the world but a reflection of it.

Friday night’s opening ceremony, featuring 10,000 athletes marching into MaracanĂ£ Stadium, will be a glorious display of pride, patriotism and swirling colors. But you also will notice:

The first Muslim American woman to compete in a hijab. Ibtihaj Muhammad is a fencer who wears the head scarf under her mask. She’s from New Jersey, trains in Manhattan and could win a medal. She also is a potent reminder of the contributions Muslims make to this country.

The first-ever refugee Olympic team. The 10 athletes come from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo, countries contributing to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Yusra Mardini, an 18-year-old Syrian swimmer, jumped into the Mediterranean Sea when her boat broke down short of Greece and, with her sister, swam more than three hours alongside to guide it ashore safely. These athletes are true portraits in courage and the definition of inspirational.

Missing Russians. Nearly 120 were banned because of their country’s massive state-run doping program. Drugs have been a scourge on sports. But Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the ban on politics intruding on sport, a reminder of current geopolitical tensions.

The United States contingent, including 30 from New York. Flag-bearer Michael Phelps, the swimmer and most-decorated Olympian of all time, is coming back from retirement - and from a second guilty plea to drunken driving, in 2014. Our sports icons are mortals, too.

Security. It might not be noticeable in the stadium, but will be impossible to miss on the streets - more than 100,000 security personnel, an Olympic record. These are uncertain times.

We hope Rio pulls it off. We also hope the city derives some lasting benefits in housing, infrastructure and the like. But the modern Olympic legacy of facilities that sit idle afterward makes the games’ cost - Brazil is spending about $11 billion - indefensible. Perhaps the time has come to consider a permanent location.

Once the games begin, the action often takes over the story. We hope the competition is fierce but fair, everyone comes home safe and no one gets sick from that water. Then we hope the Olympic movement reflects in earnest on how to make itself better.

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Online:

https://nwsdy.li/2b6fCj2

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