- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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

The Times Union of Albany on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY economic development program.

July 6

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development program, Start-Up NY, certainly has created jobs. All 408 of them. The question is whether that’s enough to justify the enormous investment.

It’s not just an investment of public funds that’s at issue here, but one of public faith. Start-Up NY is unlike any other economic development program. It has created a whole new class of tax-exempt New York businesses, and a whole new class of tax-exempt New Yorkers. For that, the people who are still paying taxes should be getting some serious bang for their buck.

We have not been among the Start-Up NY naysayers. When Mr. Cuomo came up with the idea, we thought it was worth a shot. Other states and nations are competing for businesses and jobs with all sorts of incentives. Start-Up NY, audacious as it was, seemed to have at least the potential to stand out from the crowd and draw attention to this state.

Start-Up NY offers 10 tax-free years for new businesses, or for businesses that relocate and expand into one of more than 60 locations around colleges and universities across the state. To be clear: No business, corporate, sales, property, state or local taxes, and no franchise fees. Further, neither the company nor its employees are subject to income tax. That’s quite a deal.

In addition to the revenue it is forgoing, New York has spent heavily on advertising the program. An audit last year cited $211 million in advertising costs by Empire State Development Corp., even as applications plunged.

We’re well aware of the old business aphorism, “It takes money to make money.” But just what is the state investing in here? So far, businesses that have taken advantage of the program have committed to creating 4,140 jobs.

Will those new jobs even come? We can only hope. But even if they do, they would represent less than 5 one-hundredths of 1 percent of the total employment in the state, 9.2 million jobs in May. Put another way, if New York lost that many jobs, it wouldn’t even register on the state’s monthly labor reports until somewhere down in the fine print.

One could argue that economic development efforts take time to prove themselves. True enough. But how long should we wait in the case of Start-Up NY? One would think that if a program this out-of-the box was going to attract new businesses in significant numbers, there would have been an early rush to get in. Nor would it need hundreds of millions of dollars in promotion costs; it ought to be growing by word-of-mouth.

Yet even Empire State Development doesn’t seen too impressed with the results. How else to explain the release of the program’s latest annual report on the Friday before the July 4 weekend? That’s the kind of timing reserved for bad news that politicians hope people forget by Tuesday.

It’s time Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers revisit this idea. If an economic development program doesn’t bring good news, we’re hard pressed to see the justification for it.

Online:

https://bit.ly/29qBZi7

The Jamestown Post-Journal on a recently approved legislative package that makes resources available to prescription drug addicts.

July 1

Anecdotally, we have told dozens of stories over the years of people in our area for whom prescription drugs were a well-intentioned pathway into the spider’s web of drug addiction.

Addiction to prescription drugs is hard to overcome. The switch from prescription drugs to illegal narcotics is even tougher. We hope legislation approved recently by the state Senate and Assembly, and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, begins to close that pathway into addiction’s dark web. Among the changes the bills make is to limit opioid drug prescriptions to seven days of painkillers following a patient’s initial visit to a doctor, requires ongoing training on addiction and pain management for all physicians and prescribers, and mandates pharmacists make it easier for customers to understand the risks associated with drug addiction and abuse.

It makes sense to start slowing the flow of addictive painkillers by limiting the initial prescriptions. Mandating regular training for those with the power to prescribe makes sense, too, given how quickly our understanding of opioids is changing.

We also note the state’s attempt to try to make it easier for people to seek treatment on their own by ending prior insurance authorization, meaning people suffering from addiction have necessary inpatient services covered for the treatment of substance use disorders for as long as an individual needs them. In addition, the legislation establishes that utilization review by insurers can begin only after the first 14 days of treatment, ensuring that every patient receives at least two weeks of uninterrupted, covered care before the insurance company becomes involved. The legislation increases the evaluation period from 48 hours to 72 hours for those who overdose on drugs and are taken to an emergency room and requires hospitals to provide discharge-planning services to connect patients who have or are at-risk for substance use disorder with nearby treatment options to provide continuous medical care.

This legislative package won’t end drug overdose deaths or addiction overnight. It is, however, a reasoned approach to prevention and treatment that makes resources available to addicts who choose to use them and recognizes that our use of prescription painkillers must change.

___

Online:

https://bit.ly/29iuomp

Newsday on the FBI’s decision not to pursue charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

July 5

With one brief statement Tuesday FBI Director James Comey made it certain that no jury would ever penalize Hillary Clinton for her improper handling of emails while she was secretary of state. But Clinton made it possible voters will.

Comey’s summary of the FBI’s 16-month investigation of Clinton’s use of private, unsecured email servers for State Department business was deeply damaging to the likely Democratic presidential nominee. Her blasé and disingenuous response to the finding was deeply disappointing.

In a stunning news conference, Comey said Clinton sent or received more than 100 emails in more than 50 discussion chains that were classified when they were sent, something Clinton had repeatedly denied doing. Eight of those strings, Comey said, were “top secret.”

The FBI also found that Clinton and her lawyers withheld and deleted thousands of work-related emails, claiming they were personal. Comey also said Clinton used a series of unsecure servers and mobile devices to send messages inside and outside the United States, and from hostile parts of the world. He could not say for sure whether her communications and those with whom she corresponded with were hacked, but acknowledged the possibility.

Comey’s statement fell short of catastrophic for Clinton because he said there was no precedent for bringing charges absent either deliberate intent, a significant amount of sensitive material exposed, signs of disloyalty to the nation, or efforts to obstruct justice. He said Clinton was “extremely careless” but that’s not the same as “grossly negligent,” one standard mentioned in the criminal statute.

But Comey damned both her handling of information and her State Department’s attitude toward secure information. And he said that in similar circumstances, government employees might face security or administrative sanctions.

It’s an extraordinary and unsettling situation. Clinton had repeatedly cast the email investigation as another right-wing spin job, part of the history of her and her husband as victims of Clinton crucifiers. But it’s her transgressions that are in line with Clinton history this time.

It’s another disavowal of the rules, in using the personal servers and email accounts. It’s another series of lies, in claiming she never sent or received classified materials. And it’s another try at blaming everybody else for problems the Clintons caused themselves, by minimizing the danger of these errors and attacking those who pressed her on them.

Even the way in which Comey was forced to deliver his statement is testament to the swirl of bad acting that seems to follow the Clintons. He had to explicitly state that the Justice Department could not reasonably press charges, a shockingly unusual statement, because former President Bill Clinton’s surprise meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on her plane damaged her credibility and impartiality.

At a campaign rally Tuesday, Clinton should’ve acknowledged her missteps and apologize. She should’ve said what she would do as president to prevent this from happening. Instead, a spokesman portrayed Comey’s scathing statement as something between a mild admonition and a total vindication, painting the controversy as over. To the voters who question her trustworthiness, that may not be the case.

___

Online:

https://nwsdy.li/29hPo8V

The Oneonta Daily Star on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling vacating a former Virginia governor’s public corruption conviction.

July 1

When it comes to understanding America’s relationship with crooked politicians, it behooves us to consult the writings of an expert. Now, where are we to find such a maven?

Well, New York, of course, where corruption is the state sport.

Our man is George Washington Plunkitt, 1842-1924, a Tammany Hall bigwig back when the Tammany Hall political machine set the standard for corruption in New York City and most of the state.

Plunkitt got very rich on graft, and made no apologies about it.

Believe it or not, there’s a difference, he insisted in a speech, between dishonest graft and honest graft.

Now, we might think the term “honest graft” is an oxymoron of the first order, but Plunkitt would strongly disagree if he were still around.

For dishonest graft, one works only in his own interests, he said. Taking honest graft, however, benefits one’s party and state as well as himself.

“I seen my opportunities,” Plunkitt famously said, “and I took ‘em.”

Nearly a century later, two of the most powerful politicians in New York state saw their opportunities, and “took ‘em,” too. They went to trial, were convicted, forced out of the Legislature and - thanks to a Supreme Court ruling this week that would have pleased Plunkitt enormously - will probably never see the inside of a prison cell.

We’re referring to Democrat Sheldon Silver, a former longtime speaker of the Assembly, and Republican Dean Skelos, who ruled the state Senate as its leader.

Silver had a scheme that earned - although that’s probably the wrong word for it - about $4 million in bribes and kickbacks disguised as legal fees. Skelos and his son Adam conspired to trade legislative treats for personal and political benefits.

Just to show that not all corrupt politicians come from New York, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell - convicted along with his wife of using his position on behalf of someone who gave them $177,000 in loans, vacations and gifts - was the subject of a decision Monday that will likely result in Skelos and Silver receiving “get out of jail free” cards.

The Supreme Court unanimously vacated McDonnell’s public corruption conviction. It seems that it is rather difficult for the highest court in the land to determine what is corrupt and what is just “politics as usual.” For instance, big contributors have always been rewarded with ambassadorships by grateful presidents after elections, so where exactly should the line be drawn?

Silver’s attorneys said in a statement that what the Supreme Court did “makes clear that the federal government has gone too far in prosecuting state officials for conduct that is part of the everyday functioning of those in elected office.”

The “everyday functioning of those in elected office?”

Isn’t that awful? Isn’t that sad? Is this how low expectations have sunk for those on the public payroll?

Silver, Skelos and McDonnell have been disgraced. They have violated the public trust, and yet, based on the decision Monday, what they have done is not considered worthy of punishment.

Silver and Skelos will almost certainly file successful revised motions for bail pending appeal.

“Honest graft,” indeed.

___

Online:

https://bit.ly/29jNAhz

The New York Times on fighting ISIS.

July 5

The Islamic State extended its bloody rampage with a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed more than 200 people, the deadliest attack on the city since the 2003 American-led invasion. On Monday, three smaller attacks on the Saudi Arabian cities of Jidda, Medina and Qatif were also linked to the terrorist group. The recent violence, including in Turkey and possibly in Bangladesh, may indicate some adjustment in the group’s tactics as its fortunes decline on the battlefields.

The multipronged assault reflects the Islamic State’s growing desperation as it loses the territory it seized in Iraq and Syria. An American-led coalition has recaptured 20 percent of the ISIS-held land in Syria and 47 percent in Iraq, including Falluja, which was taken back by Iraq’s beleaguered government last month.

After the Baghdad attack, the government’s response was not encouraging. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced plans to speed up the execution of ISIS members and some weak security measures. If Mr. Abadi cannot find ways to secure Baghdad, pressure may grow to move army units to the capital from the battlefield, where they are fighting ISIS. This would undercut plans by the American-led coalition, including the Iraqi Army, to intensify efforts to retake Mosul, a major city in the north that has been in ISIS’ hands for two years.

The latest attacks reveal an enemy that is adapting, becoming more sophisticated than Al Qaeda, and nurturing a far-flung network of operations, including in the West. A complex response is needed, but John Brennan, the Central Intelligence Agency director, said last month that “we still have a ways to go before we’re able to say that we have made some significant progress against them.”

Bombing isn’t the only recourse. Improved intelligence, coordinated operations to find terrorists before they strike and better strategies to counter extremist propaganda are equally needed. A central problem remains the tensions among countries in the region that have prevented a fully coordinated response to the Islamic State threat. The recent attack on Istanbul’s airport, which killed 44 people and authorities said was the work of ISIS, should persuade Turkey, a NATO member, to get more involved in the anti-ISIS fight, especially in Syria.

The Americans need to work more closely with Iran, the leading Shiite Muslim country, against the Islamic State in Iraq. Iran on Tuesday condemned the attacks against Saudi Arabia, its Sunni-majority rival, as well as those against Shiite Muslims, and called for a united response to terrorism. Testy relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia have also undercut a coherent regional response to the Islamic State, which wants to destabilize both governments. The risk is especially acute for Mr. Abadi, who has long struggled to hold on to power against challenges from other Shiite leaders. Sunday’s attack brought calls for his resignation from a population fed up with violence.

Experts say the Islamic State will wither as it loses more territory. But even then, it will no doubt continue to stage occasional attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. If Mr. Abadi and other Iraqi leaders are to protect their people, they will need the support of Iraq’s Sunni population, which remains marginalized and susceptible to Islamic State propaganda. That is a central political and security problem Iraq’s leaders have persistently failed to remedy.

Online:

https://nyti.ms/29qD1KK

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