- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

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

The New York Times on North Korea’s recent missile tests.

July 4

President Trump seems to have absorbed at least one piece of advice from Barack Obama: North Korea’s nuclear program is a problem in urgent need of a solution. That was driven home on Tuesday when the North tested a missile that appeared to be capable of striking Alaska.

Mr. Trump may also be learning another lesson, that he can’t rely on China alone to force North Korea to rein in its nuclear program. What he hasn’t grasped is that a solution will eventually require direct dialogue with the North.

Mr. Trump has long insisted it is up to China, the North’s main food and fuel provider, to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, with its dozen or more nuclear weapons. And after a meeting with President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April, Mr. Trump seemed confident that China would do so. But the intervening weeks have proved that China remains reluctant to exert the kind of pressure that could force the North to denuclearize. Beijing fears tough sanctions could destabilize North Korea, leading to the collapse of its government, chaos, a surge of refugees across the border and absorption of the country by South Korea, an American ally.

After Mr. Trump acknowledged in a recent tweet that depending on China “has not worked out,” his administration took steps that reflected his annoyance. It approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province; it imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of acting as a conduit of illegal North Korean financial activity; and an American naval destroyer passed near disputed territory claimed by China in the South China Sea. There is now talk of Washington moving on steel tariffs, which would be aimed partly at China.

Nudging China to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea is not a bad thing. But an outright break between the United States and China would very likely embolden North Korea. In a sign that neither leader wants to escalate tensions, Mr. Trump called Mr. Xi on Sunday to discuss North Korea, and Mr. Xi accepted the call. Mr. Trump warned Mr. Xi that America was prepared to act on its own in pressuring Pyongyang.

After the North’s missile test, the United States and South Korea held their own missile launch exercises. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also announced plans to use traditional diplomatic tactics, including asking the United Nations Security Council to enact stronger sanctions and urging countries where North Korean workers are employed to stop “abetting a dangerous regime.” Mr. Trump spoke Monday about North Korea with the Japanese prime minister, held talks last week with the South Korean president and plans a dinner with both men in Germany on Thursday.

One hopeful sign has been an unofficial meeting between North Koreans and Americans in Oslo in May that included Joseph Yun, a senior United States diplomat, which led North Korea to release Otto Warmbier, an American student it had detained unjustly and treated outrageously. Mr. Warmbier died June 19 after being returned home in a coma. North Korea needs to give a full account of what happened. But contacts between officials of both countries should continue, both to seek the release of three other Americans and to build a foundation for future negotiations over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

For Mr. Trump and other political leaders, negotiating with North Korea is anathema. It has one of the world’s worst human rights records. But sanctions have not ended the nuclear threat, and military action against the North would put millions of South Koreans, and 38,000 American troops, at risk. Negotiations, however, did lead to a deal in 1994 that froze the North’s program for nearly a decade.

Some of America’s most experienced nuclear experts, like George Shultz, former secretary of state; William Perry, former defense secretary; and Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, recently wrote to Mr. Trump urging him to begin talks as the “only realistic option” to prevent North Korea’s potential use of nuclear weapons. And 60 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, agree with them. There is no indication that Mr. Trump has a better strategy.

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Online: https://nyti.ms/2spAveB

The Times Union of Albany on the renaming of the Tappan Zee bridge in honor of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

June 29

Mario M. Cuomo was a dedicated public servant, a three-term New York governor who was arguably the greatest political orator of the late 20th century. He is worthy of honor. Now he’s to have a bridge named for him.

The tribute to the late governor was part of the omnibus legislation approved by the state Assembly this week when his son, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, called lawmakers back for an “extraordinary” session. In addition to avoiding a crisis over New York City school leadership and settling a major counties sales tax issue, the package also addressed a less urgent matter: what to call the new, nearly $4 billion span that is being built to replace the aging Tappan Zee bridge, which connects Westchester and Rockland counties in the lower Hudson Valley.

Already approved by the state Senate, the Assembly action means the span will be known as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The move comes over the objections of some individual Assembly members who complained, in part, because the current bridge was named for Malcolm Wilson, a longtime Republican Assemblyman from Westchester County who was Nelson Rockefeller’s lieutenant governor and served as the state’s chief executive for a year after Governor Rockefeller stepped down in 1973. Their objections were rejected, and the new bridge will have a new name.

So with the naming done, isn’t it time for New York’s taxpayers to find out how the state will be paying for the new structure? To start the project, Mr. Cuomo used a $1.6 billion short-term federal loan. He also has tapped some money won in settlements with Wall Street firms for their role in the mortgage banking crisis that led to the Great Recession. What has yet to be revealed is how much will be paid with long term bonds and how that cost will be covered. Tolls? Taxes?

The Cuomo administration has been tight-lipped about whether the ultimate financing plan will eventually mean a hike in the tolls on the new bridge and on other Hudson River crossings or, as some speculate, an overall increase in the charges to use the entire state Thruway. That would mean travelers and commuters from Yonkers to Cheektowaga would be paying down the debt for years to come. This uncertainty prompted Wall Street analysts to downgrade the Thruway Authority’s bond rating.

Last year’s decision to take the state’s financially strapped Canal Corp. out from under the Thruway Authority was a sensible way to stabilize the authority, preparing it to shoulder the burden of paying for the new bridge. Still, Mr. Cuomo has been mum on paying for the new bridge.

Some cynics say that naming the new bridge after Cuomo the father was meant to bolster the career of Cuomo the son, who is said to harbor presidential ambitions. Unless the state soon presents a transparent and equitable way to pay for it, the new bridge could end up memorializing a sort of fiscal mismanagement that neither of the Governors Cuomo would want linked to their name.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2sp26g4

The New York Post on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel criticizing the MTA compared to Chicago’s transit system.

July 3

Exile from national politics plainly hasn’t cost Rahm Emanuel an ounce of chutzpah: The Chicago mayor took to the New York Times op-ed page the other day to sound off about how New York can better manage its subways.

It’s a bit like the Charleston River Dogs telling the Yankees how to play: Chicago’s eight subway lines run all of 224 miles; Gotham’s 24 lines run 654 miles, by far the world’s most extensive system.

A mere 234 million riders a year use the Chicago Transit Authority’s 80 stations; 1.65 billion enter and exit through the MTA’s 468 subway stations.

Aside from noting that his (tiny) system works fine under direct mayoral control, Emanuel’s points are what you’d expect from a loyal Democrat: President Trump should quit trying to do things his way and instead embrace liberal tax hikes and mega-spending programs to boost mass transit.

And local governments should see what taxes they can impose on business for the same end.

Oh, and Trump should stop pointing out how horribly high Chicago’s murder rate has grown.

At least Emanuel has the sense not to lecture the NYPD.

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Online: https://nyp.st/2uDMTs9

The Journal News on the U.S. Coast Guard reviewing a proposal for petroleum shipping on the Hudson River.

June 29

Public officials, environmental groups and thousands of citizens can pat themselves on the back for convincing the U.S. Coast Guard to halt its review of a proposal for 10 anchorages in the Hudson River. The plan was put forth by the commercial shipping industry, and was met by immediate and legitimate opposition from those who did not want to see the Hudson’s environmental rebirth threatened by growing numbers of ships carrying petroleum products.

Many were alarmed because the proposal seemed to come out of the blue in early 2016. It wasn’t clear how seriously the U.S. Coast Guard would take public concerns before reaching a decision. But the outcry would lead to an extension of the comment period - and the eventual filing of more than 10,000 comments on the Coast Guard’s website (almost all negative).

So the Coast Guard’s decision, announced Wednesday, to shelve its review of the 10-anchorage plan is a victory for transparency and public involvement in an important environmental issue of regional concern.

As U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said, the plan “would have been an archipelago of oil storage facilities.” The Cold Spring Democrat, along with officials from every level and every party, worked to stop the anchorage expansion plan.

The Coast Guard is not abandoning the idea of adding anchorages to the Hudson, but is planning to conduct a new assessment of shipping needs on the Hudson and possible future steps. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Steven Poulin said in a statement that: “The Coast Guard’s role on the river includes protecting the environment and promoting navigational safety. These are complementary objectives, as safer navigation inherently improves environmental protection.”

Like it or not, the Hudson is already busy with commerce. In 2014, more than 17 million tons of cargo were hauled in 208,030 trips between north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Waterford, 10 miles north of Albany. Petroleum products made up 11.5 million tons of that cargo.

The shipping industry says that it needs docking stations to safely deal with low tide, narrow sections of the Hudson, low visibility and other challenges. The Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey proposed the 10-anchorage plan after several communities complained about commercial ships dropping anchor at unauthorized spots, a move that can draw $40,000 fines from the Coast Guard.

We applaud the efforts of those who were leery of the Coast Guard’s “rulemaking” process, demanded openness and responsiveness, and have gotten the Coast Guard’s attention. Now it’s the Coast Guard’s job to listen to all involved and figure out what is in the best long-term interests of the Hudson River, considering environmental needs and commercial realities.

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Online: https://lohud.us/2s9SV2G

Newsday on giving college applicants information about the most successful postgraduate programs.

July 5

It’s no secret that college tuition is ballooning. So why keep secret the information on which degree and nondegree programs give students the best postgraduate opportunities?

Regulations were supposed to go into effect this month to take away federal financial aid from students at for-profit colleges and in nondegree college programs that showed high debt-to-earnings postgraduate ratios. But the sanctions have been held up by the Trump administration, which plans to rewrite rules for student borrowing. Most students will now remain in the dark about which schools could give them better opportunities, and which will be a waste of money.

A bill being considered in Congress could make sure the U.S. Department of Education provides graduation outcomes applicants need.

The College Transparency Act is bipartisan legislation that would create a student-reporting database with enrollment, graduation and postgraduate outcomes. Applicants would be able to search college outcomes reported by recent graduates.

Some universities report their own outcomes, but the data aren’t comparable from school to school because colleges aren’t required to disclose collection methods. The College Transparency Act would fix this by setting up standards for alumni reporting.

Because the bill requires more data collection, serious security measures should be put in place to protect the information. These concerns should be weighed with students in mind, because students deserve more information before signing their name on the dotted line of debt.

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Online: https://nwsdy.li/2upedLc

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