- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:


Back in July, we recommended that officials at Penn State University be given a year to test-drive a new prevention regime aimed at curbing the kind of fraternity-driven excesses that claimed the life of 19-year-old freshman Timothy Piazza.

And if those reforms didn’t take, we further recommended that Penn State follow the lead of Harvard University and consider a ban on all fraternities, sororities and single-gender clubs starting in the fall of 2018.

A one-two punch this week has caused us to reconsider that position.

First there’s the decision by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller in the wake of revelations that footage from a camera in the basement where Piazza died had been, manually deleted just as police were going to seize it.

As The Post reported, FBI agents recovered video from the deleted hard drive. That showed, The Post reported, fraternity members requiring pledges to drink beer, wine and vodka in the basement, prosecutors said.

That was followed by Lehigh University’s decision to dissolve the Sigma Chi fraternity after two students ended up in the hospital after a champagne drinking party.

Yes, Penn State shuttered the fraternity in the Piazza case. Nonetheless, the twin incidents have convinced us that enough is enough: It’s time for Penn State to go full-Harvard and enact a ban on Greek life.

Our reasons are the same as they were back in July.

While some fraternities undoubtedly do some good, that good has been overwhelmed by the unsavory underbelly of frat life.

Research has shown that “fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men,” James D. Foubert, a professor of higher education and student affairs at Oklahoma University, told The New York Times in 2015.

“Universities are often fairly hands-off with monitoring the activity within fraternity houses,” Foubert told the newspaper, “and it also happens to be the place where a great deal of the high-risk drinking tends to occur on a college campus. And with unmonitored facilities and a lot of alcohol consumption, and with male control over the space, it can create a dangerous environment for women.”

In a piece published by Newsweek in May, the University of Minnesota’s Toben F. Nelson and Spruha Joshi concluded that a “toxic drinking culture,” the same one that leads frat boys to sexual assault, contributed to Piazza’s death.

“Fraternity members insist they can take care of themselves. The evidence suggests that this is not true and it is not reasonable to expect these young people to appropriately manage alcohol at their events,” they wrote. “College administrators and prevention professionals have tried developing programs to educate fraternity and sorority members about the risks of excessive drinking.”

They concluded that “a recent review of existing scientific studies came to an alarming conclusion: Extant alcohol interventions show limited efficacy in reducing consumption and problems among fraternity and sorority members. In other words, what we are currently doing does not work.”

University officials have argued that banning the frats will simply drive them underground, making risky behavior harder to detect and prevent.

But as long as universities tolerate these organizations in their midst, they confer upon them a legitimacy that’s no longer warranted.

There’s a reason no one wears togas anymore.

The ancient Greeks are history. It’s time for Greek life on campus to join them.


Online: http://bit.ly/2jLnZXk



A bill from state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill County, would change the way Pennsylvania selects a lieutenant governor. Currently, the governor and lieutenant governor are chosen separately in primaries by their party’s voters before becoming a team in the general election. Argall’s bill would allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mates, much like presidential candidates choose their vice presidential running mates.


OK, that might be a bit strong and somewhat premature, but at least we left off the exclamation point. At the very least, how about “Hear, hear!”?

It did our hearts good to see former Pennsylvania lieutenant governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, sitting at a conference table at last week’s hearing and agreeing that ending the so-called “arranged marriage” between the governor and his No. 2 is the right thing to do.

“The time has come to correct this aberration of electing these two people independently and hoping the best in what amounts to a shotgun marriage,” said former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, a Democrat who served under the late Gov. Robert P. Casey.

“As history has shown us, sometimes teams become true partners and sometimes they don’t,” said former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, a Republican who served under Gov. Tom Corbett. “Do I think that in the end there is a greater likelihood of a cohesion under this proposal? Certainly. But just like everything else there are no guarantees.”

We understand, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take.

As bad gubernatorial marriages go, Pennsylvania’s current iteration is right up there. Don’t look for a photo of Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack splitting the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner.

Remember, Argall’s legislation was triggered by the revelation that Stack was under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for mistreating and verbally abusing his mansion staff (that’s a state-funded mansion and staff) and security detail.

A House committee is also looking into Stack’s grocery bills after The Caucus, an LNP Media Group publication covering state government, reported that Stack spent $30,000 on groceries as part of a $73,000-plus credit card tab for food and beverages since taking office in 2015. Strip steaks, duck breast, jumbo lump crab meat - sweet.

Wolf subsequently stripped Stack of his security detail and cut his mansion staff in half back in April.

We’re not exactly going out on a limb in saying that Wolf and Stack have something less than a healthy working relationship.

In fact, sufficient evidence exists that the two can’t stand each other.

So, why were they manacled together in the first place? The short and unsatisfying answer is it’s in the state constitution. Argall’s bill would require passage by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions, and then voters would need to approve it in a statewide referendum. That sounds like a lot of trouble and effort, but we believe it’s well worth it.

Lancaster County’s state Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Landisville, and Scott Martin, R-Martic Township, support the legislation.

It’s time for the Legislature to do this, and it should be a bipartisan effort.

A gubernatorial candidate should be allowed to pick his or her own running mate. This would greatly enhance the possibility that the two can work together and actually get things done.

After the news of Stack’s alleged foibles broke, we received questions from readers such as, “Why do we need a lieutenant governor anyway?” and “What does he actually do to justify a mansion and security detail?”

The Stack mess makes those questions more difficult to answer. The answer to the second question is that the lieutenant governor’s primary role is to preside over the state Senate and the Board of Pardons. He also has the ability to cast a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, although that still doesn’t justify a taxpayer-subsidized house and security team.

But unless the state allows the governor to choose someone with whom he or she can work, coming up with an answer to the “Why?” question will require some rhetorical gymnastics.

The last thing a state that took three months to find a way to pay for a budget needs is a well-compensated official who appears to have no meaningful responsibilities.

To our Legislature: Let the governor choose his or her running mate. Expand the lieutenant governor’s role. Let him earn his $162,000 per year. Heck, you can even auction off his mansion, as one lawmaker suggested.

It’s time.

Can we get an amen?

-LNP newspaper

Online: http://bit.ly/2zVwrcP



Perhaps the most misguided part of the House Republican tax plan, which was passed on Thursday, is its raising of rates on graduate students - by 300 to 400 percent, according to economics Ph.D. students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who are thus affected.

In exchange for teaching courses or working with professors on research projects, universities typically grant modest stipends to doctoral students. These almost never exceed $30,000 a year and often fall lower, depending on the teaching or research load. As part of the deal, doctoral students get free tuition.

That tuition price tag of, say, MIT is roughly $50,000. Under the tax plan passed by House Republicans, these students would have to report doctoral students’ tuition forgiveness as income. So students barely scraping by on $30,000-a-year stipends will have to pay taxes as if they made $60,000 to $80,000.

At a time when demand for well-educated workers has never been higher, the government should not be making it harder than it already is for Americans to seek advanced degrees. Many of these doctoral students will have already been struggling to pay off tens of thousands of dollars of debt from their undergraduate degrees.

The 20s are the decade of life when young people should be the most free to take economic risks. When the country’s best creative minds - whether entrepreneurial, artistic, scientific or some combination thereof - choose paths that don’t lead to their full potential for fear of financial ruin, the damage is felt widely.

In economics, the relationship between the average level of education of a nation’s workforce and its GDP is obvious. Much less clearly correlated to a nation’s prosperity is how little it taxes top earners.

-The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Online: http://bit.ly/2A0eqaX



The Trump administration has made much of the Department of Justice’s well-warranted lawsuit against the impending merger of media giant TimeWarner and telecommunications giant AT&T.; Blocking that merger clearly is necessary to maintain consumer-friendly competition.

But across town, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has decided to betray consumers and taxpayers in one of the worst ways possible by reversing “net neutrality regulations.

The FCC, in effect, would turn over control of a massive public asset, the internet, to private entities that undoubtedly will prioritize their profits over the broadest possible public access.

Net neutrality regulations were designed to ensure that internet service providers did not manipulate the system to drive their own profit. They precluded manipulating content delivery speeds and network access to favor their own content, and ensured equal access to the internet for all content developers and consumers.

Without those regulations, huge service providers like Comcast, AT&T; and Verizon will create “fast lanes” to deliver content, enabling them to charge more for the content on one end and for the delivery of it on the other - at the expense of inevitable “slow lanes” for those who don’t want to or can’t pay more.

Providers say that net neutrality stymies technological innovation. Historically, however, it is near-monopoly that inhibits innovation, and the elimination of the net neutrality rules tilts the field decidedly in favor of a few big players.

Net neutrality holds that the internet is much like a public utility, and that the place it now occupies in the economy and daily life require that it be regulated accordingly.

Without enforced net neutrality at the federal level, there can be no equal and open access to the internet, which is a massive public assert rather than a private instrument. Congress should act in the public interest, rather than the parochial interest of a few large internet service providers, and make net neutrality the law.

-The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

Online: http://bit.ly/2jg4ylo



Over the past month and a half, the United States has endured three heinous mass-casualty attacks. An Uzbekistan native used a truck to kill eight people and injure a dozen more in downtown Manhattan, and a pair of homegrown assailants armed with semiautomatic rifles killed a total of 82 people and wounded some 570 in Las Vegas and rural Texas.

The response to these three incidents has been curiously dissimilar.

While politicians insisted it was too soon to explore possible responses to the mass-shootings, within 24 hours of the truck attack, President Donald Trump was renewing calls for a tighter travel ban and a more stringent “extreme vetting” program.

This is doubly disappointing.

On the one hand, “too soon” talk quickly turns into “too late.”

In the first of the two mass-shootings, an Oct. 1 assault in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire on a concert crowd with a modified assault rifle from the 32nd floor of a casino. He left 58 dead and nearly 550 wounded. It was the deadliest such shooting on U.S. soil.

Talk of legislative efforts to address gun violence were first dismissed as being premature, then forgotten. Just five weeks later, a gunman used a similar weapon to kill 20 and wound 26 inside a church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Talk of legislative efforts to address gun violence were, again, first dismissed as being premature, then forgotten. The Sutherland Springs tragedy has already been displaced from the political consciousness by the alleged misdeeds of a U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama.

On the other hand, Trump’s response to the least deadly - but no less heinous - of the three attacks is alive and well.

“I have just ordered homeland security to step up our already extreme vetting program,” Trump wrote on Twitter in the wake of the Manhattan attack. “Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

Political correctness has nothing to do with opposition to such measures. The fact is, the United States’ visa vetting process is already one of the toughest in the world, according to the Brennan Center for Justice:

“Applicants’ biographic data, photographs, and fingerprints are collected and screened against a range of national security databases that contain millions of entries and include classified information from federal, state, local, and foreign governments. Applicants must provide voluminous documentation to verify their identities and backgrounds.”

Applicants for immigrant visas, required to stay in the U.S. permanently, are even more stringent, the Center says.

Brennan also points out that, while terrorist attacks in the U.S. by foreign-born people are statistically rare, in such cases radicalization usually take place years after someone has moved into the country, indicating vetting would not have been effective.

Such is the duality of addressing multiple-victim attacks in America: Efforts are made to ratchet up an already rigid series of laws in response to terrorist attacks, while almost nothing is attempted to address the more common and deadlier incidents of mass shootings. (And, of course, there are a variety of steps that can be taken - from closing the gun-show loophole to banning the device the Las Vegas shooter used to modify his weapon into a rapid-fire assault rifle - that leave the Second Amendment whole.)

This is not an either/or proposition. We all agree anything that can be done to minimize and, if possible, prevent terror attacks against U.S. citizens should be done. Why can we not come to the same conclusion regarding gun violence?

-York Dispatch

Online: http://bit.ly/2zYLiTX

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