- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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

The (Albany) Times Union on state grants connected to a scandal.

Oct. 17

Twice now, the state Department of Health has failed to reveal that contractors for state grant recipients were connected to scandals surrounding the Cuomo administration. The agency’s excuses only worsen the suspicions these lapses raise.

In the latest revelation, the Times Union’s Chris Bragg reports that the department failed to provide the state comptroller’s office - which must sign off on grants - with documents identifying one of the subcontractors on an $18.1 million project in Buffalo. That project, a children’s ambulatory surgery center, was awarded an $11.2 million DOH grant.

The grant was awarded to Kaleida Health, a subcontractor for whom was LPCiminelli. Three of that firm’s top officials, including Louis Ciminelli, face federal bid-rigging charges stemming from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.

Among the problems, the comptroller’s office says it never received a “vendor responsibility questionnaire” for LPCiminelli which would, among other things, have had to disclose the charges. The DOH’s explanation? The company never gave it the form.

Even without that disclosure, the comptrollers’ office did receive a questionnaire for Kaleida’s main contractor, Conventus Partners, which is owned by Paul Ciminelli, Louis Ciminelli’s brother. Though Paul Ciminelli has not been indicted, the relationship was enough to raise a red flag.

This is not the first time we’ve seen missing paperwork from the DOH. It also failed to make a notable disclosure in the case of Crystal Run Healthcare, which received a $25.4 million grant for medical projects in Orange and Rockland counties. The DOH did not disclose a subcontractor on the projects - Albany-based Columbia Development, whose principal, Joe Nicolla, faces bid-rigging charges related to SUNY Poly.

The Health Department’s explanation for that one? It didn’t have to provide information on Columbia since the company wasn’t getting any of the state money. Even so, the comptroller’s office said it asked for information on all vendors on the project.

A few other points to note: Both grants were awarded after the projects were already underway. The Health Department says that’s legal, but whatever happened to need when it comes to giving away taxpayer money?

Further, in the case of both Columbia and LPCiminelli, principals of the firms have been generous contributors to the governor. Mr. Cuomo’s office bristles at any suggestion of a connection, insisting campaign contributions never influence government decisions.

We can only imagine what Mr. Cuomo might say about this if he were still a state attorney general looking to make a name for himself as a crusader for good government. It’s hard to imagine him accepting such exacting compliance with the letter of the law and such obvious flouting of its spirit as acceptable.

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


The Poughkeepsie Journal on the response to mass shootings.

Oct. 18

It’s utterly distressing that dozens of people were slaughtered and hundreds more injured by a deranged gunman in Las Vegas, and the country is politically paralyzed to do anything about it.

The Republican-controlled Congress, beholden to the gun lobby, has steadfastly refused to act on even the most rudimentary, common-sense changes to the gun laws, including banning certain assault-style weapons and expanding background checks and wait times.

Let’s face it: Americans are not safe. Sadly enough, they do have legitimate reasons to be concerned every time they take mass transit or gather for sporting or music events at arenas and stadiums. Even the slaying of children - as occurred in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013 - wasn’t enough to summon Congress to take decisive action.

True, all the legislation in the world isn’t going to stop some people from committing atrocities if they are fueled by hate or are emotionally unbalanced or both.

But it could lessen the impact. Tightening the gun laws could save lives, and that should be reason enough to act - and it has to be done on the federal level. Too often, guns are being purchased in states with lax standards and then transported to states like New York with tougher laws. And too often, the gunmen have criminal histories or documented mental health problems, yet they still were able to obtain the guns easily.

It’s true the gunman in the Las Vegas shooting doesn’t apparently fit the profile we typically see. Stephen Paddock didn’t have a criminal record or reported history of a mental illness. But in several of the most horrifying cases - including the slayings in Sandy Hook - the perpetrators were able to obtain assault-style weapons that were once illegal under a federal ban that Congress let expire more than a decade ago. As for Paddock, he owned more than 40 guns and had nearly two dozen of them with him in his hotel suite where he opened fire of a massive crowd at a concert below. Paddock’s arsenal included semiautomatic rifles affixed with bump stocks. That device can be used to make semi-automatic weapons perform like machine guns, which is perfectly legal. It’s completely insane that, as a country, we would make it so easy for a person to slaughter other people this way.

New York lawmakers are now seeking an outright ban on bump stocks. As is, it’s illegal to affix a bump stock to a semiautomatic weapon, but the device itself isn’t illegal. Gaping inconsistencies and loopholes like this are not making the country any safer.

Of course, tighter gun laws are only part of the answer. A whole lot of consideration should be given to what Leah Libresco, a statistician and former newswriter at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, pointed out in recent column in the Washington Post. When it comes to reducing gun violence, she said months of research showed, “The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.” They include focusing on suicide prevention, curbing gang-related street violence and protecting victims of domestic violence.

Comprehensive solutions are needed, including providing the necessary resources for better mental-health services in this country. One thing ought to be abundantly clear: Doing nothing is not an option. The carnage will continue unless the country acts decisively and in bold ways.

Online: https://pojonews.co/2xPe2yq


The Gloversville Leader-Herald on punishment for Bowe Bergdahl.

Oct. 18

When Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009, he put his fellow soldiers in jeopardy. At least two were wounded in firefights while they searched for him.

And, though Bergdahl had no part in the ill-informed decision by former President Barack Obama to exchange five Taliban prisoners for him in 2014, there can be little doubt that action cost lives, perhaps of U.S. military personnel.

Bergdahl has pleaded guilty in a military court to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. An Army judge is expected to sentence him soon. The disgraced soldier could be sent to prison for life.

What he did was inexcusable, as he should have understood when he walked away from his post. He claims he meant to cause alarm among fellow troops, as a means of drawing attention to what he insists were serious problems - not specified - within the unit.

Not long after he deserted, he was captured by the Taliban. That resulted in the prisoner exchange.

Many veterans of the military have said the single most important facet of their service was their bond with others in their units and their determination not to let their comrades down.

Bergdahl broke that bond. He knew he was doing so.

There indeed was a problem in Bergdahl’s unit - him. He should be sentenced to a prison term commensurate with his crime.

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


The (Oneonta) Daily Star on girls being allowed into the Boy Scouts.

Oct. 16

Boys will be boys.

And girls will be Boy Scouts?

But only if they want to.

Beginning next year, the Boy Scouts of America will allow girls into the Cub Scouts, and the organization is establishing a program for older girls based on the Boy Scout curriculum that could lead to some of them becoming Eagle Scouts.

While there are legitimate concerns when it comes to interaction between the genders and sustaining the Girls Scouts of the USA, we believe this new policy to be a good thing and a continuation of a laudable entry into the 21st century by the Boy Scouts, which were founded in 1910.

In the past five years, the Boy Scouts began accepting openly gay and transgender youngsters and gay adult volunteers. Despite warnings from some circles about dire consequences from those changes, scouting has turned into neither Sodom nor Gomorrah.

We think it shall also quite nicely survive co-ed activities.

Under the new plan, Cub Scout dens - the smallest units - will be either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the choice of remaining single-gender or having boys and girls. The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019.

“The values of scouting - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example - are important for both young men and women,” chief scout executive Michael Surbaugh told The Associated Press.

Surbaugh said mixed-gender overnight outings for scouts ages 11 to 14 would not be allowed. Cub Scout camping trips, he said, were usually accompanied by family members and did not require such restrictions.

The Girl Scouts of the USA is not happy about the new policy, suggesting that it was done to boost Boy Scout revenue and offset some of the costs of past settlements in sex-abuse cases.

As of March, the AP said, the Girl Scouts reported more than 1.5 million youth members and 749,000 adult members, down from just more than 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014.

The Boy Scouts say current youth participation is about 2.35 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past.

We do worry a bit about the Girl Scouts remaining a viable organization and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts possibly competing rather than having the collegial relationship they enjoyed in the past. But we also don’t think there will be a mad rush for girls to join the Boy Scouts, certainly not if Girl Scout programs are interesting and challenging.

Still, for one Florida woman, Margot Goldstein, what is happening is bittersweet. Back in 1991, she was a third-grader and a proud Cub Scout . until she got kicked out.

“I didn’t understand at 8 years old why it was such a big deal that I was a girl,” she told Time Magazine last week. “How is a parent supposed to say, ‘Because you’re a girl they don’t think you’re capable of this thing?’”

Margot and her family sued . and lost. She said she believes the youngest Cub Scouts should still not be segregated by gender.

“It’s nice to see them making steps and progressing in a good direction,” she told the magazine, “but it’s still not the same as what I was fighting for.”

The world has changed in many ways since 1991. Girls are excelling in fields in which they have previously been barred. Why should a female who is capable not become an Eagle Scout? Maybe Margot Goldstein would have made it if given the opportunity. She - and we - will be proud when that first young woman attains that difficult achievement.

Online: https://bit.ly/2ileD3K


The Wall Street Journal on Steve Bannon.

Oct. 15

One irony of Washington these days is that a press corps that claims to loathe right-wing political operative Steve Bannon can’t get enough of him. The media broadcast his every utterance, cheering on his declaration of “civil war” against Republicans in Congress.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina captured that reality on CBS ‘s “Face the Nation” Sunday when he said, “You’re going to ask me about Bannon, so I’ll just go and ask myself.” And he replied by giving Republicans good advice on how to defeat Mr. Bannon, his Mercer family financiers and Breitbart campaign operation.

“Yes, so, what is going on?” Mr. Graham asked. “It’s a symptom of a greater problem. If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of (Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell as we know it.”

The host teed up Mr. McConnell, but Mr. Graham elaborated: “Mitch McConnell is not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes, and we’ve yet to do it. If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell is fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble, we lose our majority, and I think President Trump will not get re-elected.”

That’s exactly right. Mr. Bannon is recruiting carpetbaggers or multiple-race losers, but they’ll have a chance if Republicans can’t deliver on their campaign promises. Mr. Bannon’s best enablers are the GOP senators who killed health reform: Susan Collins, John McCain, Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski. If they want to make Mr. Bannon a kingmaker, they’ll do the same on tax reform.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2hJP8VW

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