- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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

The Poughkeepsie Journal on the kind of efforts needed to combat substance abuse.

Jan. 17

Indicative of how pervasive the problem is, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state should create two “recovery” high schools for young people suffering from substance abuse.

It’s such a distressing commentary on the hard-drug crisis gripping the nation- and New York has outpaced the national average in terms of the number of deaths attributed to such use.

The governor says the recovery schools are needed because “virtually all youth in recovery reported being offered drugs their first day back at school.”

The state Office for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse would partner with social service agencies to establish the two schools, but the idea still needs legislative approval.

While a worthwhile effort to try as a model, it’s questionable how effective creating two schools- one downstate and one upstate -will be in fighting this widespread problem that touches not only cities but rural areas and every place in between. A fight of this magnitude takes a comprehensive approach involving all segments of the community, something the governor himself concedes.

For instance, stronger prevention and education efforts have to be made in schools and at community forums. Late last year, the Poughkeepsie Journal held such a forum at the Family Partnership Center in the City of Poughkeepsie.

Also, the government too often focuses on dealing with problems after the fact, such as incarcerating drug users who should be in more effective and less expensive treatment programs. Improving public awareness about the pervasiveness and potency of heroin and opioids is imperative and can help stem the tide of abuse that we are witnessing.

In recent years, the state has passed legislation aimed at forcing insurance companies to cover more treatment options and to stop the outrageous actions of doctors over-prescribing the initial supply of opioids for patients. Those are important steps as well. The state has to begin winning this battle.

Dramatic actions are needed throughout communities, including our schools, to address the misery, pain and death these drugs are causing.

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Online:

https://pojonews.co/2iB50NG

The Albany Times-Union on ethics reform in New York.

Jan. 13

There’s never been a time in recent years when something called “ethics reform” wasn’t on the legislative agenda in Albany. Sadly, that’s because there’s never been a time when it wasn’t necessary.

Think of last year alone: The men who had led both houses of the state Legislature were sentenced to prison for corruption related to their jobs, and two longtime advisers to the governor and his key upstate economic development strategist were charged with federal crimes involving taxpayer dollars in pay-to-play schemes.

Maybe the best a politician can hope for these days is that voters have become so accustomed to a daily diet of corruption-related news that it all begins to blur together, so the blame gets spread around.

Trying to make his reality less gloomy than all that- and, to be fair, surely with the genuine intent of reducing misbehavior in all branches of government -Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included a package of ethics reform proposals in the agenda he laid out in a series of State of the State speeches around the state this week. It’s an uneven agenda, though some of it certainly deserves the Legislature’s quick embrace.

Cuomo’s approach to ethics reform has been a complicated one over the years. As the states attorney general, he won convictions of the state comptroller, Alan Hevesi, and a Democratic leader of the state Senate, Pedro Espada. He pushed to strengthen that office’s authority by expanding its very limited purview over public corruption.

But as governor, he reversed course, refusing to go along with giving his successor as AG the clout to go after public officials who are wrongdoers. That key change is one he still inexplicably omits from his list of proposals.

Cuomo also has avoided suggestions to restore oversight that the Legislature unwisely stripped from the state comptroller’s office to oversee contracts issued by the state and city university systems and the state Office of General Services. The governor instead wants that to run through his own appointee, the state inspector general.

As independently elected officials, both the AG and the comptroller are better positioned to handle this ethical oversight than the executive chamber.

Some of the most ambitious items on the governor’s ethics agenda will require more effort than a single legislative session can deliver, including constitutional amendments to create a full-time legislature with term limits. But several of Cuomo’s proposals have been often advanced, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be enacted quickly, including closure of the “LLC loophole” that allows virtually unlimited campaign donations to state candidates and expansion of the state Freedom of Information Law to cover all of state government.

It’s not that the talk of ethics reform will ever end. But it would be nice if some of the talk yielded action sooner rather than later, for once.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2jrB0AE

The New York Daily News on President Obama’s decision to end the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy with Cuba.

Jan. 17

More than two years ago, President Obama announced plans to turn the page on a failed half-century freezeout with Cuba, and restore diplomatic ties with the Communist island.

Thursday, with just seven days left in his second term, the President scotched the immigration policy that went hand-in-hand with that freezeout.

What took so long?

Under “wet foot, dry foot,” established more than 20 years ago, Cubans who landed in the U.S. got green cards, no matter how they arrived. It was itself a tightening of the initial Cold War policy that created a glide path to citizenship for any Cuban who managed to get off the island.

Which is to say, for more than 50 years, Cuban immigrants have been treated unlike anyone from any other country: as welcome to stay forever, simply by virtue of the fact that the country from which they fled is Communist.

Yes, under the Castro regime, human rights are an oxymoron, driving many people to want to escape. But the regime in Venezuela regularly abuses many of the same rights, and its people get no special treatment.

Haiti has never been a picnic, either. Yet thousands of people who left it on rickety boats after an early-90s coup were not given dry towels, a hot meal and a path to citizenship- but bare cells in a Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The double standard is finally kaput. The only shame is that the new policy barely gets a chance to set foot in Obama’s America before Donald Trump will get the chance to pull the rug out.

Americans view Obama favorably, but divided over his legacy: poll

He wouldn’t do that, would he?

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Online:

https://nydn.us/2k46bFI

The Wall Street Journal on President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning.

Jan. 17

President Obama’s decision Tuesday to commute the 35-year prison sentence of Pfc. Chelsea, née Bradley, Manning will be celebrated on the left as a vindication of a well-intentioned whistleblower whose imprisonment at Ft. Leavenworth as a transgender woman was a travesty of justice. The real travesty is the show of leniency for a progressive cause célèbre whose actions put hundreds of lives at risk.

For those who need reminding, Manning was stationed in Iraq as a low-level intelligence analyst when he gained access to troves of classified material. Starting in 2010 he leaked nearly 750,000 documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. Included in the material were thousands of secret State Department cables and masses of military information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange worked with reporters from several news organizations to publish the material, to much self-congratulation about the virtues of transparency.

U.S. diplomats and military officers took a less charitable view, with good reason. While many of the State Department cables contained little more than diplomatic party gossip, others disclosed sensitive conversations between U.S. diplomats and opposition leaders in repressive regimes. After the disclosure, Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai was investigated by the regime of Robert Mugabe for “treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world,” as the country’s attorney general put it.

Even more dangerous were leaks of operational secrets, including the names of Afghan informants working with U.S. coalition forces against the Taliban. A Navy SEAL who participated in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan testified that Manning’s leaks were found on the terrorist’s computer.

Little wonder that at the time Obama criticized “the deplorable action by WikiLeaks.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the document dump “puts people’s lives in danger” and was “an attack on America’s foreign policy,” its partnerships and alliances. Prosecutors initially sought a life sentence against Manning, who was eventually convicted of 17 of 22 charges, including espionage and theft.

Within 24 hours of sentencing in 2013, Manning said he wanted to begin hormone therapy and be known as Chelsea. Last year the Army agreed to finance her medical treatment for gender dysphoria. In December the ACLU and numerous LGBT groups wrote to Obama urging that he grant clemency to Manning, in part on grounds that she has been held in solitary confinement after suicide attempts.

The commutation sends a dreadful message to others in the military who might have grievances or other problems but haven’t stolen national secrets. The lesson is that if you can claim gender dysphoria or some other politically correct condition, you can betray your country and get off lightly.

On Tuesday, Obama also commuted the sentence of Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar López Rivera, who was convicted of “seditious conspiracy” against the U.S. government. He belonged to the FALN, which was responsible for more than 70 bombings in the U.S. between 1974 and 1983, killing five and injuring dozens. Rivera, who has been in prison since 1981, had become the political project of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a pal of President Obama. No word from the White House on whether the President alerted the families of the FALN’s victims.

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Online:

https://on.wsj.com/2izRTfJ

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on why lawmakers shouldn’t rush to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Jan. 14

Haste makes waste, especially in Washington, D.C. There, undue haste to replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, could make things worse.

As its unofficial name implies, the national health care takeover law is President Barack Obama’s baby. He and Democrat strategists are making plans to stymie a Republican campaign to rescind and replace the law. It has been reported the Democrat strategy will be to exploit differences of opinion among Republicans in Congress about a replacement for the ACA.

That will not be difficult. The law is so complex and now so entrenched that it may prove impossible to craft a substitute fully acceptable to all conservatives in Congress. The Democrats’ task will be to make GOP lawmakers forget the old advice that politics is the art of compromise.

But give and take in politics requires time. Both President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have said repealing and replacing the ACA will be one of their top priorities this year. Mr. Trump has urged Congress to act “very quickly,” but thoughtful GOP strategists have suggested the obvious: Don’t try to do it all at once. Phase in desirable changes, a little at a time.

After all, attempting a massive remake of Obamacare all at once risks playing right into liberals’ hands. Disagreements among Republicans could scrap the whole project.

This is, after all, the nation’s health care- one of the most vital of all services, which millions upon millions of Americans need, which is also a gigantic part of the economy. It’s been treated largely in partisan terms, but it deserves much more than that from all of us. Americans need to really think about what kind of system would work best, how much they will pay in taxes vs. in bills, and how much they’re willing to compromise for the public good. Congress members should not take it lightly.

We suspect they would be less partisan if they had to rely on whatever health insurance they assign to the rest of us, but they give themselves a plan that is luxurious by modern American standards, the kind their constituents can only dream about.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the government provided health care for those who were old, poor, veterans, active military members and many other federal employees, including themselves. Many states, including New York, cover children from middle-income households. Working adults were left to insurance companies, which found all kinds of ways to- to put it gently -take advantage of them to make more profit.

We don’t want to go back to that, but the ACA was also problematic. For one thing, it was massively expensive, both for taxpayers and premium payers, and those costs led many people to downgrade their level of care. Millions of hard-working people found themselves paying more and getting worse insurance every year.

We think American can do better, but it won’t be easy.

Those corporate interests that would lobby hardest for fast abandonment of the ACA have the most to gain from it, largely at the general public’s expense. That’s another reason not to rush.

Perhaps the best advice for those seeking to get rid of Obamacare- for the good of millions of Americans hurt, not helped, by it -is this: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2j8RJbq


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