- Associated Press - Friday, October 6, 2017

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:



The (Meriden) Record-Journal, Oct. 4

For Connecticut residents, it’s a depressingly familiar refrain: Hope appears on the horizon that some kind of budget deal will be worked out, then hopes are dashed and it’s back to the drawing board.

That happened, once again, just the other day. To be up front about the situation, chances were already pretty slim (perhaps closer to slim to none) that Republicans would be able to override the veto of their budget by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but it’s perhaps an indication of how frustrating proceedings have become that even a slim chance of success breeds hope.

One of the aspects of failure residents appear to be increasingly frustrated with - if not outright angry about - is the way these failures appear inevitably to result in partisan bickering.

An example of recent squabbling:

“Given the opportunity to discuss, defend, and vote for a veto override on their budget, the Republican Party decided to take a pass.” - Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

“Right now, there is no alternative that is out there that can garner a majority of support in this building. We have a budget that can do that. They don’t like it - I get that.” - Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

This time, returning to square one might actually be worse than square one.

Malloy said the other day the legislature would need to adopt a budget by Oct. 13 - it’s hard to see that as a likely scenario at this point - to prevent the partisan impasse from stretching into December.

Increasingly impatient municipalities deserve better than this, as do all residents of Connecticut.

State Rep. Vincent Candelora, a Republican who represents a part of Wallingford, remarked that Democrats had “a lack of understanding of what our budget does and what is in our budget.”

If that is the situation, it’s a clear sign of what is going wrong in Hartford.

“… if we all take our political parties off our sleeves, we can get to a budget,” said Aresimowicz.

That’s the way to break the impasse. It’s time for action.

Online: https://bit.ly/2y5p7tw



The Eagle-Tribune, Oct. 2

Sometime early next month, Carlos Rafael is expected to report to a federal prison to begin serving a 46-month sentence for criminal conspiracy and tax evasion.

Rafael, the 65-year-old New Bedford-based fishing magnate, acknowledged in front of a judge earlier this year that he had lied to federal fishing regulators about the nature and size of his groundfish landings and bulk smuggling.

At sentencing last week, U.S. District Judge William G. Young rejected the argument from the man who liked to call himself “The Codfather” that the fraud was necessary to protect the jobs of his workers.

“This was stupid,” Young told Rafael. “This was a corrupt course of action from start to finish. It’s a course of action of extensive corruption designed to benefit you, to line your pockets. That’s what it is and that’s why the court has sentenced you as it has.”

Good for Young for handing down a stiff sentence (Rafael was seeking probation). The Codfather’s story, however, does not end here. His arrest and prosecution laid bare a broken regulatory and monitoring system.

It’s inexplicable how investigators came to the Rafael grift so late. Rafael’s boats landed hundreds of thousands of pounds of cod, a chronically overfished species, skirting catch limits by labeling the catch as species like haddock and flounder, which are less-valuable and more plentiful. The scheme let The Codfather circumvent catch limits on cod while paying lower taxes on the value of his catch.

The fraud was so widespread that there is legitimate concern that the false filings skewed fishery scientists’ fish count by millions. Such counts - reported by fishermen - play a large role in management decisions. Regulators need to trust that fishermen’s reports are accurate, and fishermen need to know the federal government is making decisions based on solid data. Rafael’s scheme damaged that trust.

The federal case against Rafael covered only four years; the Codfather has been working the waterfront in New Bedford for more than three decades, calling himself a “pirate” and daring regulators to catch him. It took them too long to do so.

Now that Rafael is headed for prison, regulators still have no idea what to do with the fishing permits and property he amassed over the years. The fishing magnate proposed forfeiting the 13 groundfish permits he used in his scam.

Rafael’s wider empire, however, consists of a fleet of more than 30 boats, 40 permits and other assets totaled at more than $100 million.

Some in the industry want to see the forfeited permits handed out across New England or Massachusetts, rather than returned to New Bedford interests. Those in that city, however, have a fishing tradition that mirrors Gloucester’s, and the loss of those permits could be the death knell for groundfishing there. John Bullard, the outgoing regional NOAA administrator, has a difficult decision to make. Gov. Charlie Baker has floated the not-too-farfetched idea of using Rafael’s forfeitures to pay for onboard monitoring of fishing catch - long a sore point among fishermen who oppose being forced to pay for it.

Bullard’s decision would have been easier - or avoided altogether - if the regulatory system for groundfish was properly designed in the first place. The catch-share system designed for the New England fishery allowed - some would say abetted - Rafael’s efforts to amass his empire. He owned the boats landing the fish as well as the dockside businesses registering the catch, making it easy to hide his scheme from regulators. As large operations like his have grown more powerful, smaller operations - the single, family-owned boats that were once the backbone of the industry - increasingly are left to battle for scraps.

That has to change. Other fisheries - the West Coast groundfishery and Maine’s lobster industry - take steps to make sure no single interest controls the seas. The same should happen here.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xo9gTf



The Westerly Sun, Oct. 4

Among the phrases used to describe the weapons amassed by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas was “high velocity ammunition intended to inflict the most damage.” Another broadcaster stopped himself to add the word “latest” as he was describing this “most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.”

Paddock killed 59 people and caused 527 to be injured - as of Tuesday evening, according to AP - from five football fields away from his innocent targets. All the details - shooting down with semi-automatic weapons, some altered to be fired as automatic weapons, from the 32nd floor of a hotel room onto a crowd of 22,000 people fenced into a concert venue - have been repeated since news broke late Sunday night and early Monday morning. Investigators expect that soon they’ll get a glimpse into Paddock’s frame of mind now that they’ve located his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who was traveling outside the U.S. at the time of the rampage.

None of the other details matter though, do they? His life story. His trials and tribulations.

This guy had 16 rifles, some with scopes, and a handgun in his hotel room. He had another 18 at home and “thousands of rounds of ammunition,” police said.

Those are the only details that matter and that’s where the discussion has to focus. Just as we all thought it would be after 20 first-graders and six educators were massacred in Newtown five years ago. Five years ago, and weapons of war are still being amassed in suburbia. Twenty little kids in classrooms were gunned down with a semi-automatic rifle and Congress didn’t take any action. And the NRA crowd lobbies to keep it that way while defending the right to hunt.

The president has already laid the groundwork for continued inaction. His contribution thus far has been stating the obvious, calling Paddock a “very, very sick individual,” and “demented.” He said “we’re looking into him very seriously.” Why? What’s the mystery? The guy was sick and he could buy an arsenal. Paddock’s personal life isn’t going to provide the answers to all the other mass shootings of Americans by Americans with weapons of war that are legal to possess on every block.

The president said “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

With all due respect to those killed and their families, this latest massacre doesn’t need to sit. We don’t need to absorb it. We’ve been absorbing them for years. Neither the president nor Congress can hide behind respect for the victims in delaying talk of gun control. The opposite is true.

And the truth is that the mental health community - even here in little South County and at Westerly Hospital - is doing more to stop the carnage than Congress or Trump. Mental health is becoming part of the conversation locally in programs such as the youth mental health first aid certification classes co-sponsored by the hospital and the Washington County Coalition for Children later this month. Similar sessions have been held for coaches and teachers and others across the region.

But getting mental illness out of the closet and providing help is only 50 percent of the equation. And because not everyone who needs help will get it, Congress needs to ensure that the “right” to murder innocents with weapons of war comes to an end, despite the NRA’s fight to celebrate the right to murder.

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



Nashua Telegraph, Oct. 6

Government officials and employees are notorious for trying to keep documents secret from the public. That is why, in New Hampshire, we have open records laws requiring release of such information, except in certain circumstances.

Reportedly, officials in some other states have come up with a new way to thumb their noses at the public’s right to know. They have been filing lawsuits against those who seek some records, when an excuse can be made that the documents are legally sensitive or could prove embarrassing to someone.

Government entities have filed such lawsuits in Kentucky, Oregon and Louisiana, The Associated Press reports. Some of the actions have been upheld in court.

Here is our advice to local and state officials in our states who may be thinking of similar action to intimidate those who ask for public records: Forget it.

If there is a legitimate reason to keep a type of public document secret, go to the legislature and have it included on the list of open records law exemptions.

But do not use the threat of lawsuits to frighten taxpayers - and yes, the press - away from demanding public records.

Here in our area, people don’t take kindly to those who attempt to scare us away from insisting on our right to know.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xXKf5P



Portland Press Herald, Oct. 6

Schools are supposed to be where our children are encouraged to develop new interests and skills and prepare for their future as engaged and productive adults. But immigrant students across Maine are facing relentless harassment that tells them they’re not welcome in the state’s K-12 public classrooms - with bleak consequences for newcomers and those born here alike.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine study “We Belong Here,” which draws on over 115 interviews with parents, educators, community leaders and students, found “a constant barrage of bullying” across Maine at all grade levels. And what’s recounted in the new report goes far beyond mere teasing.

Students of color are being called the N-word, told to “Go back to Mexico” or threatened with deportation.

The classmates of Muslim young people are addressing them as “ISIS” or trying to pull off their headscarves.

Bus drivers are refusing to pick up immigrant children or openly ridiculing them and encouraging other students to join in.

Teachers are turning a blind eye to bullying or telling immigrants that they’re not cut out for challenging classes.

Even predominantly white Maine schools aren’t exempt from considering their obligations to minority students. Bullying is not only ugly but also a violation of both state and federal law. Schools that don’t take steps to address discrimination risk state human rights investigations, student lawsuits and federal prosecution. Harassment is, as well, a moral failure - one that makes some students feel afraid when they’re in school and prompts others to drop out altogether, putting them on a path to lower achievement and depriving the community of their potential.

Of course, even schools with a poor track record on diversity have teachers and administrators who are supportive of immigrant students and work to meet their needs. But a high school educator told the ACLU that it can be tough to make a difference when everyone around them buys in to pernicious myths - like the idea that immigrants come here to live off welfare or take American jobs.

Yes, it can be expensive to resettle refugees in the United States. The cost of health care, food stamps, cash assistance and other direct and indirect aid adds up to about $180,000 per person, Notre Dame economist William Evans recently told National Public Radio. So for their first nine years in the U.S., refugees cost more in services than they pay in taxes. After that, though, they start paying in more than they’re taking out - and by the time they’ve lived here for 20 years, Evans found, refugees “will have paid an average of $21,000 more in taxes than in benefits received . since arrival.”

That fits with an internal U.S. Health and Human Services Department study, prepared this summer, that determined that refugees brought in $63 billion more in tax revenue than they cost between 2005 and 2014.

The people perpetrating the harassment and those who are enabling it may never recognize the high cost we all pay when some of us are deprived of a safe place in which to learn. But the Maine schools that make a commitment to making room for immigrants (the ACLU report highlights different ways this can be done) will find out that the benefits of doing the right thing can be significant as well.

Online: https://bit.ly/2y5uusM



Bennington Banner, Oct. 2

Americans awoke Monday morning to learn that the deadliest mass shooting in American history took place Sunday night in Las Vegas.

As of this writing, we know from the Associated Press that at least 58 people were killed and hundreds more wounded when a man 32 stories up in a hotel room opened fire on a concert being held below. Police stormed his room and found that he’d killed himself.

Among the dead is Dorset native Sandy Casey, 35, a graduate of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. Our condolences go out to Casey, her family, and all those affected by this horrible event.

If past mass shootings are any indication, here’s what’s likely to happen over the next few days.

“Thoughts and prayers,” will be sent by people on Facebook and Twitter to the people of Las Vegas and to the victims. Politicians will issue statements expressing their heartfelt sorrow.

President Donald Trump was prompt with his own remarks.

“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence We call upon the bonds that unite us: our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity,” he said on Monday, speaking from the White House.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy tweeted, “All Vermonters are further devastated to learn that Vermont’s Sandy Casey was a victim in Las Vegas. Our prayers are with her and her family.”

Trending on Twitter now is “#guncontrol.”

We hate to say it, but if the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six school staffers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut didn’t shake anything loose in this country then neither will what just happened in Las Vegas. Once all the solidarity and unity talk wears out, we’ll have another round of people calling for gun control, for a better mental health system, for the media to lay off/pile on, for us to have a “national conversation.” Pundits will speculate on why this happened, how it could have been prevented.

Commentators will compare (unfavorably) Trump’s handling of the situation to how he’s responded to similar incidents in Europe.

Many will say now is not the time to “politicize a tragedy,” or as some others call it, “talk about why this happened and work to prevent it.”

In a few years, months, weeks, hopefully not days, there’ll be another mass shooting and we’ll do this all again.

We hope we’re wrong and that this will be the shooting that finally sets in motion real, positive change, but we doubt it. “Insanity” has been described as doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result, and it does appear that we are, as a nation, insane.

Online: https://bit.ly/2wDaz1e


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