Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
Poughkeepsie Journal on domestic violence and a fatal shooting at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California, on April 10, 2017.
It starts out ominously, like all these stories do: Breaking news of shots fired, victims on the ground, emergency officials hustling to the area. They arrive on the scene and determine it's a "murder-suicide," and statistics — grim statistics — tell you what that means in the more than 90 percent of the cases: A man has killed a woman, likely someone he knew, likely an intimate partner.
If you don't think domestic violence affects us all, listen to those who are devastated after the recent deadly shooting at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California. Start with the Martinez family. Their 8-year-old son, Jonathan, was essentially collateral damage when Cedric Anderson, the estranged husband of Martinez's teacher, Karen Smith, shot and killed him. Anderson also killed Smith and wounded a 9-year-old student before fatally shooting himself.
Born with a genetic condition and surviving heart surgery, Jonathan Martinez went through many ordeals in his scant 8 years on this Earth. But he couldn't survive this rampage that left him a random victim of workplace violence.
Domestic violence incidents like these often make headlines, but there are so many other less publicized incidents out there, including cases that go unreported in our own neighborhoods. The Dutchess County Sheriff's office says there have been 895 responses to domestic-violence incidents in the last year. In our area, we have several organizations — including the Grace Smith House, Family Services' Domestic Violence Services and House of Faith/House of Hope — that are doing what they can to help victims, but resources are always thin. And the legal system has failed too many times to adequately protect those in danger.
The San Bernardino story is hauntingly familiar in that way as well. Police say Anderson had a history of allegations of violence made by at least two other women, and Smith had left her husband and was trying to stay free. But Anderson wouldn't let her go. Experts will tell you this transitional time can be the most volatile and, yes, too often those being abused fear coming forward for help.
But domestic violence is a crime — not an internal family matter — and it's a crime that tends to escalate. That means society as a whole has a stake in all of this. Early prevention and education about domestic violence are imperative strategies to dealing with this menace, but so is creating an environment that encourages those being abused to speak out and get help. Silence is too often a precursor to deadly attacks related to domestic violence. And, as we have witnessed too many times, communities suffer in all sorts of ways when this crime goes unchecked and is allowed to fester.
The New York Times on federal regulation of e-cigarettes and e-cigars used for inhaling nicotine in vapor form, or vaping.
As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own. Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes. If they succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions.
While promoters of e-cigarettes and e-cigars, which provide nicotine in vapor form, say they can help people quit conventional tobacco products containing harmful tar, there is not a lot of evidence for that claim. In addition, the devices are dangerous to young people because the nicotine they provide "can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain," according to a 2016 report by the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy. Health experts also say that the vapor those devices produce can contain carcinogens and metal particles.
Another government report found that 16 percent of high-school students said they had used e-cigarettes in 2015, up from just 1.5 percent in 2011. The industry sells these products in a broad array of flavors, like gummy bear and cotton candy, designed to appeal to young people when they are more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted to nicotine.
After years of deliberation, the FDA said last May that it would begin regulating the manufacturing, sale, packaging and advertising of e-cigarettes, and all tobacco products, under a 2009 federal law that authorized it to do so. Specifically, the agency said it would begin reviewing the health risks of e-cigarettes introduced since early 2007, and potentially ban specific flavors and products that it deemed harmful. The tobacco lobby wants Republicans to amend a vital appropriations bill to exempt products that were introduced before May 2016 from FDA review.
The push to undermine the FDA's authority began even before the agency had finished its rule. One Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, introduced a bill in 2015 that was identical to a draft circulated by the Altria Group, the country's biggest tobacco company and a marketer of vaping products. In addition to its legislative effort, the industry has also filed several lawsuits in federal courts challenging the rule.
Tobacco companies complain that the FDA's rule amounts to "retroactive" regulation because many of the e-cigarettes and e-cigars it will regulate have been on the market for years. But the industry has known for years that government officials were developing this rule. Large bipartisan majorities in Congress voted in 2009 to hand the agency the authority to evaluate and approve new tobacco products introduced on or after Feb. 15, 2007. The FDA is simply doing its job by protecting public health.
(New York) Daily News on the firing of commentator and television host Bill O'Reilly by Fox News Channel's parent company.
The long overdue comeuppance of Bill O'Reilly is a fresh stain on a cable network with an abysmal reputation for handling workplace sexual harassment.
And a lesson to other employers to decisively deal with bad behavior in their midst or feel similar pain.
O'Reilly, the mainstay of America's most-watched news and talk channel, was cut loose from Fox News after revelations that the corporation paid out millions over the years to settle claims about chronic bad behavior.
Weep not for a wealthy and influential man who, like former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes before him, ultimately proved too large a liability for his employer.
He'll do just fine selling books about presidential assassinations, thank you very much.
And give no credit to Fox News for feeling sudden pangs of conscience. This was a transparently self-protective reaction by a company that, after tolerating O'Reilly's antics for far too long, saw a revolt by shareholders, and, not least, dozens of advertisers — and buckled.
The end began early this month, when the New York Times reported that five women with complaints about O'Reilly over the years received a total of $13 million in payouts in exchange for agreeing either to keep quiet or not take the company to court.
Accusations, even accusations that result in settlements, are not evidence of guilt. O'Reilly claims to have been a target of lawsuits from individuals seeking easy cash to avoid negative publicity.
But the pattern here, as reported by the accusers, was unmistakable: that one of the company's most powerful people inappropriately pursued women sexually even as he wielded significant professional influence over them, in some cases exacting retaliation when they spurned him.
And his employer failed over many years to make it stop.
Fox's statement Wednesday claimed that its decision to part with O'Reilly came "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations."
Ridiculous. The allegations had to have been reviewed, carefully and thoroughly, over many years, when Rupert Murdoch, sons Lachlan and James, and the rest of Fox brass were deciding how to price those secret payouts.
And they should have been reviewed after the Ailes implosion prompted supposed company-wide soul searching.
And they should have been reviewed when, at the end of last month, the company renewed O'Reilly's contract.
And they had to have been reviewed in the weeks since the story surfaced, as the top management still stood by him.
The only thing less responsible than the reaction of top Fox executives? Statements by the friend of the host and network who sits in the Oval Office.
President Trump this month reflexively sided with his ally, telling The New York Times: "I don't think Bill did anything wrong," and therefore "shouldn't have settled."
Kneejerk discrediting of sexual harassment claims is one reason many women fear coming forward — as Trump, who faced many allegations of misconduct himself, likely knows from personal experience.
Indeed, in defending Ailes last year, Trump said that if his own daughter had been sexually harassed, "I would like to think she would find another career or find another company."
No. It is Ailes and now O'Reilly who have to move on. In this day and age, some company somewhere can surely use a cantankerous talking head.
Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., on the pace of layoffs in the retail and service industries.
What is a college without a cafeteria? SUNY Orange is about to find out.
What is life like without a job? About a dozen cafeteria employees are about to find out that as well.
And while students will be able to find something to eat, it will be harder for the dozen people laid off to find work in an economy with a low unemployment rate that disguises the reality that many hold several jobs which provide no benefits or pensions at a time when more of those with limited skills are being cast adrift.
There is a lot of talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs, but those promises neglect to acknowledge that the nation still produces an impressive amount of goods. Because of automation and efficiency it is doing it with fewer workers.
For all of the talk about ending regulations on coal mines, the real threats to those jobs come from similar advances in automation and from another, larger force — the switch to cheaper and less polluting forms of energy, especially natural gas.
Right now, nobody seems to be talking about the plight of a growing number of workers, the 89,000 laid off from retail jobs just since last October, a figure comparable to all who are employed not just in the mines but in the mining industry. Several industries and several companies, including Arby's, employ more.
These massive shifts in employment all come to one degree or another from e-commerce. Even the cafeteria workers at SUNY Orange are feeling the indirect effects because profits from the bookstore that once supplemented food services expenses have been eroded by online textbook purchases.
And e-commerce continues to grow, increasing by an average of $30 billion a year from 2010 to 2014 and having that growth itself increase to $40 billion a year over the past three years.
That online competition is the same force eroding the viability of retail stores including many whose names were so long associated with shopping that it's hard to imagine that one day soon they will no longer be around.
Sears has announced that it will close the store at the Galleria in Middletown. The company announced at the start of the year that it would close 109 of its Kmart stores and just a few weeks ago the company, which has not made a profit since 2011, issued a statement saying that there is "substantial doubt" that it will be able to keep doors open in its other stores.
If the trend continues, and there is no indication that it will stop, more retail operations, large and small, will continue to feel the competition from online shopping, meaning that more stores will close and more retail workers will lose their jobs.
Where will they find work? Not in the industry that has laid them off. An enlightened approach to a more secure economic future would be focused not on finding imaginary villains but on real causes and solutions, on extensive retraining programs for the hundreds of thousands who will soon be filing for unemployment benefits and the additional hundreds of thousands who seem likely to follow.
Niagara Gazette on a statewide campaign to recruit volunteer firefighters.
For too many years people, especially those living in rural communities, have taken their volunteer fire companies for granted.
Part of that is due, of course, to the widespread impression that should a fire or other emergency occur in a home, business or industrial site, the volunteer firefighters would arrive on the scene within minutes. Regardless of the hour — day or night — it seems they're always there at a crucial time. We know from countless experiences that their valuable service often makes the difference between life and death. In addition, their intensive training and expertise at handling dangerous situations can be a key factor in preventing the spread of the fire and saving the home or business from a total loss.
An aging population in countless towns and villages, plus endless changes in lifestyles, has left volunteer fire companies in Niagara County and across the Empire State undermanned. Faithful members who served for decades reach a point where younger people are needed to fill the shoes and respond to the alarms. That's been a constant challenge as evidenced by messages on the electronic sign boards in front of the fire halls. It's usually a succinct plea, "Volunteers Needed, Inquire Inside."
Later this month, some 300 fire companies in the state plan to participate in the seventh annual RecruitNY weekend, an initiative of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY). On April 29 to 30, the fire halls including some in Niagara County plan to open their doors to the public in an all-out effort to boost the membership in their volunteer firefighting ranks.
For the public, it's an ideal opportunity to visit the firehouses and tour the facilities, perhaps the first time for many. In addition, visitors will be given a close-up demonstration of firefighting techniques and children no doubt will be thrilled for the rare chance to try on turnout gear and check over some of the equipment that is usually seen from a distance. The volunteer firefighters also will be there to discuss the requirements and the rewards of fulfilling such a vital role in the community.
"Joining the volunteer fire service has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I know that I'm not alone in saying that," said FASNY President Kenneth Pienkowski. "We invite all New Yorkers to visit their local fire halls. They may be surprised to find their very own neighbors and friends are already in the fire department, and just may be inspired to join them in protecting the community."
Established in 2011, RecruitNY is a joint undertaking by the state firemen's association, the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC), the Association of Fire Districts of New York State, the Volunteer Fire Police Association of New York State and the County Fire Coordinators Association of New York.
For area residents trying to find out if your fire department is participating in RecruitNY, visit http://www.recruitny.org/participation-area . Founded in 1872, FASNY now represents the interests of an estimated 110,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel in the state.