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Editorials from around New England

May 3, 2019

Editorials from around New England:



The Concord Monitor

May 2

Attending the annual Kiwanis Club carnival in Concord is a rite of passage for area youth. Kids arrive in tow with parents until that memorable year when they and their friends are dropped off in a test of trust and adventure. We feel for those who were poised to achieve that level of independence this year. The fair has been canceled for want of the seasonal workers required to erect and run the rides, and perform jobs local residents have no interest in filling.

Blame belongs to Congress, myopic foes of immigration, and most of all to President Donald Trump.

The H-2B foreign worker program provides seasonal workers to fill jobs primarily in the agriculture and hospitality industries. It is a small part of America’s dysfunctional and increasingly cruel immigration policy, but it’s having a big impact on bread and butter businesses crucial to local economies.

Miller Amusements, the company that has provided entertainment at the Kiwanis Fair for years, was awarded not a single visa for the 20 primarily Mexican workers it needs for the season. “We’re just dead in the water,” Joanne Miller told Monitor reporter Nick Stoico.

Landscaping companies, nurseries, hotels, restaurants and resorts are suffering a critical worker shortage. The problem is compounded by New Hampshire’s 2.4% unemployment rate. The relatively few who are unemployed want permanent jobs, are unwilling or unable to do the hard work performed by foreign laborers or simply need higher wages to survive in a state with a high cost of living.

The worker shortage is damaging the economy of a state that depends on tourism for a big chunk of its revenue. Congress agreed to issue 66,000 H-2B visas this year, half for the summer season and half for winter. Recognizing the impact of the quota, the departments of Labor and Homeland Security are making an additional 30,000 visas available, with eligibility limited to those who were granted visas in the past.

The increase may not be enough to help the NASWA Resort at Weirs Beach in Laconia, which normally hires foreign workers to fill many of its 140 seasonal jobs. It received none in the past two years. And it’s not holding its breath.

The administration’s recent action will raise the total number of visas granted this year to 96,000. On Jan. 1, the first day businesses were allowed to request seasonal workers, they asked for 98,000. Limiting or reducing the number of permitted foreign workers makes sense when the economy is in recession and unemployment high. It makes no sense now, a fact New Hampshire’s congressional delegation has pointed out to the administration.

There is a profound irony in Trump’s limit on seasonal worker visas. Most are issued to residents of Mexico and Central America, who typically send the bulk of their earnings home to their families. The money allows them to improve their lives or even move to a safer community or neighborhood. It helps to quell the desire to flee to the U.S. border, the desire to risk their lives to enter the country illegally.

The administration’s visa policy is making a bad situation at the border worse.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Vb6CRz



The Republican of Springfield

May 1

Deep down, the people at the Environmental Protection Agency know. They must know.

They work for an administration that insists climate change is a figment of pointy-headed scientists’ imaginations. Every so often, President Trump hints some grudging acknowledgment that natural changes are being affected by 150 years of industrialization, but not enough to take serious action or even completely concede it.

Now the EPA is cautioning local governments to prepare for climate-induced crises. A report last week comes despite references by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that global warming won’t hit hard for another 50 to 75 years.

An update to a report entitled, ”Guidance about Planning for Natural Disaster Debris ,” was released last week. It’s directed toward “communities at increased risk from natural disasters due to climate change,” according to the report.

The link between natural disasters and climate change couldn’t be expressed more directly. Even the quasi-optimistic company line that climate change won’t affect us until the end of the century - excuse the sarcasm, but well, that’s not our problem, is it now? Most of today’s adults won’t be around by then, though some will, and after that, it’s only their kids and grandchildren who will have to face it, right?

The report does what skeptics try so hard to deny, which is that regardless of the timetable or the severity, climate change is real. The report mentions climate change 22 times. It connects the trend to wildfires, floods and storms, with data backed up by the oceanic experts and meteorologists.

“Climate change” and “global warning” are often viewed as interchangeable, but the second phrase is only a portion of the first. Change includes not just warmer temperatures but more severe, violent and rapidly changing weather patterns of all kinds.

Wheeler said in March that the agency’s new focus is on clean drinking water. He says this addresses an immediate threat, as opposed to climate change, which is where his “50 to 75 years (from now)” reference was heard.

Climate change is so daunting, immense, abstract (most of the time) and frankly scary that many people are intimidated to even acknowledge it, let alone tackle it. It’s human nature to address only urgent problems, and this doesn’t appear to qualify.

That is, unless you’re forced to abandon your home in a tornado, flee for your life in a tropical storm or move from coastal settings because the water level is rising. All of those are happening at levels no living person has previously seen.

The EPA is right to concern itself with clean drinking water. It is wrong to ignore climate change altogether, though its hands are tied under the current administration. What it can start to do, and perhaps has reluctantly begun to do, is to concede the problem is real and that skeptics are doing future generations a terrible disservice by insisting otherwise.

Online: https://bit.ly/302UvF8



Bangor Daily News

April 30

Our nation’s court system is often taken for granted and forgotten until controversial or groundbreaking rulings are issued. But in an era when the president and other politicians ignore laws, or bend them to seek political advantage, the courts remain the last place where decisions are made based on the letter of the law and the U.S. Constitution.

In recent days, federal courts across the country have issued rulings to stop some of the worst attempts to override constitutional protections for minorities, immigrants and women.

Last week, a judicial panel in Michigan ruled that the state’s congressional and legislative district were unconstitutionally gerrymandered by a plan put together by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011. The districts unfairly gave Republicans an advantage and have to be redrawn before the 2020 election, according to the three-judge U.S. Circuit Court panel. Special elections are also needed in several state Senate districts, the judges ruled.

The gerrymandering was so severe, the judges wrote, that Republicans won 64 percent of the state’s congressional seats while never earning more than 50.5 percent of the statewide vote in elections between 2012 and 2016.

The case is likely headed to the Supreme Court, which is considering similar cases. Lower courts threw out gerrymandered redistricting plans in Maryland and North Carolina. Gerrymandering is a bipartisan affair, as the Maryland case involved districts drawn by Democrats to give their party an advantage and the North Carolina case involved Republicans drawing district lines in their favor.

The Supreme Court has been loathe to get involved in such cases, but that trend is likely to end, Thomas Wolf, a lawyer at the Brennan Center and an expert on voting rights, told The Washington Post.

“The lower courts are showing the way — that courts can make sense of these problems and solve them in clear ways,” he said. “It also suggests with all of these wins (against gerrymandering) that it’s the Supreme Court that’s really out of step.”

Also last week, Texas officials agreed to stop their investigation into alleged voting by non-citizens, which was based on false claims of voter fraud. That encouraging move came only after a court ruling.

In January, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley said 95,000 non-citizens were on the state’s voter rolls and that 58,000 had voted in recent elections. His office used this assertion to direct county officials to begin the process of purging these people from the state’s voter rolls if they did not send proof of their citizenship within 30 days.

But the state’s information was incorrect and thousands of naturalized citizens, who can legally vote, were targeted.

The official end of the investigation came after a federal court judge ruled against the state earlier this year. Judge Fred Biery called the state’s efforts “ham-handed” and “threatening” and noted that no native-born Americans were subject to this treatment.

In a case with more impact in Maine, a federal judge last week issued a nationwide injunction to stop Trump administration rules to restrict how family planning clinics talked to their patients about abortion services. The so-called gag rule would affect clinics that receive federal funding for health services, disproportionately impacting low-income women. Federal funding cannot be used to provide abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.

The Maine Family Planning Association had sought a similar injunction in federal court in Maine. It withdrew that request after last week’s ruling from the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Judge Stanley Bastian criticized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for making the rule change without “reasoned analysis” of its consequences, which include impeding access to health care.

These rulings are an important reminder that trying to gain political advantage or seeking to enforce an ideology do not trump the separation of powers or the rule of law.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Wh8KDQ



The Day

May 1

For some time, Gov. Ned Lamont has been a supporter of giving Connecticut a $15 hourly minimum wage. “When I ran my company, I knew what a good wage, with good benefits, meant to employees. That’s why I support a $15 minimum wage - it will improve the lives of working families across CT,” he tweeted while a gubernatorial candidate in 2018. Gov. Lamont has endorsed legislation that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from $10.10 at present, to $15 by January 2023.

A recent report provides yet more cause for concern about what a $15 minimum wage would mean for Connecticut. What Gov. Lamont and his legislative supporters do from here on out will tell whether they prioritize pragmatism or ideology.

A Tribune News Service story that was featured in the April 30 Republican-American focused on automation in supermarkets. It referenced a 2018 report from IBISWorld, which dedicates itself to “provid(ing) meticulously researched business information and market research on thousands of industries worldwide.” The report noted employee wages comprise the second-largest cost to supermarkets - especially over the last five years - largely because of minimum-wage increases. It highlighted a coping mechanism many supermarkets have used: cutting low-wage positions and assigning the relevant work to technology.

With at least some employers equipped to counteract burdensome minimum-wage mandates with automation, Gov. Lamont and other $15 enthusiasts should take stock. The IBISWorld story is especially concerning because it means young people have fewer opportunities to gain work experience, something that hurts them and the economy at large over the long run. Indeed, as we related in a Jan. 13 editorial, in the wake of New York City’s new $15 mandate, some employers have at least talked about hiring fewer low-wage workers and/or resorting to automation. Remember, conventional wisdom was that tourism-centered economies, like that of New York City, would be positioned to withstand $15 mandates.

To be sure, some employers may try to minimize job losses to automation. As the Tribune story indicated, the new contract between Stop & Shop and the union representing its workers “calls for management and the union to meet and discuss specific technological changes as they arise and affect supermarket operations and employees.” But sparing jobs in such an environment could result in price increases, something that also would hurt Gov. Lamont’s vaunted “working families.”

Last month, Gov. Lamont predicted $15 legislation will be approved by the legislature this year. The governor and sympathetic lawmakers are advised to take stock. What they do over the next month will speak volumes about how in touch they are with economic realities.

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



The Providence Journal

April 28

In a bizarre act of political theater that made national headlines last week, the Burrillville Town Council declared itself a sanctuary town. But not for undocumented migrants. For the right to bear arms.

The resolution said the town will support “the Burrillville police department’s (right) to exercise sound discretion when enforcing laws impacting the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment.”

“I’m taking the sanctuary city status that’s been used by progressives and liberals around this country” and applying it to gun ownership rights, sponsor Donald A. Fox told The Providence Journal (“Council creates ‘sanctuary town’ for gun owners,” April 26). “We’re thumbing our nose at the federal government. We’re no longer going to be used as a punching bag for the left, for the anti-gun movement.”

Naturally, this set off those of a different political persuasion. The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence lectured Burrillville officials not to use the term sanctuary city “lightly.” That is because enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws “threaten our most vulnerable communities,” it said.

But, of course, many people — from the right and the left — have different ideas about the justice of certain laws.

When we substitute our wishes — even our most passionate beliefs — for the rule of law, we create a culture in which the protections of the law and the ability of the people to run their government quickly dissipate. A two-tiered justice system, in which laws are enforced against some people and not others, is the definition of injustice.

America has a system that is supposed to be employed when we wish to control (or not control) immigration, guns or anything else.

Namely, the people’s elected representatives pass laws. These tend to reflect the general views of the populace since legislators must be elected. If citizens oppose those laws, they must lobby their legislators and, if that fails, use such means as the vote and the right of free speech to try to get laws changed.

If laws violate the Constitution, and specifically the Bill of Rights, they may be challenged, and courts may overturn them.

This system is much more just and humane than one in which organized (and sometimes powerful and well-funded) groups thwart the law and substitute their wishes for the will of the people. Anarchy breeds injustice and deprives the people of their right to influence government through their votes.

That is true of gun laws. That is true of immigration laws.

The sanctuary game has its limits. The day after Burrillville passed its resolution, a federal grand jury indicted Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and former Court Officer Wesley MacGregor on charges of obstruction of justice. They allegedly helped a man illegally sneak out the back of a courthouse and thus avoid an immigration agent.

“From certain corners, I have heard the occasional gasp of dismay or outrage at the notion of holding a judge accountable for violating federal law,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said. “But if the law is not applied equally, it cannot credibly be applied to anyone.”

The public’s safety and the survival of our republic rests in enforcing and respecting duly passed laws, rather than substituting personal inclinations for those laws.

Burrillville should do its best to enforce all the laws.

Online: https://bit.ly/2GXvh20



The Rutland Herald

April 30

An alarming nationwide study released earlier this week revealed approximately 195 more youth suicide deaths than expected were associated with the television series “13 Reasons Why” in the nine months immediately following the series’ release.

The study, led by Nationwide Children’s Hospital with collaborators, demonstrated that following the series’ release on March 31, 2017, the following month had the highest suicide rate during the five-year study period among 10- to 17-year-olds. However, there was no significant association between the series’ release and suicide among individuals 18 and older.

“Youth may be particularly susceptible to suicide contagion, which can be fostered by stories that sensationalize or promote simplistic explanations of suicidal behavior, glorify or romanticize the decedent, present suicide as a means of accomplishing a goal, or offer potential prescriptions of how to die by suicide,” said co-author Jeff Bridge, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Portrayals of suicide in entertainment media should avoid graphic detail of the suicide — which the series did not — and adhere to best practice guidelines to reduce risk of subsequent suicide.”

The study authors used interrupted time series and forecasting models to analyze monthly rates of suicide between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2017 — the time period before and after the release of “13 Reasons Why.” The researchers examined immediate effects and subsequent trends and adjusted for potential effects of seasonality and underlying trends on suicide rates. Data was obtained for cases in which suicide was listed as the underlying cause of death, according to the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Following the “13 Reasons Why” release, national experts raised concerns about the series and a month later, Netflix strengthened the graphic content advisories and added a warning about the whole series that appeared before the initial episode. A website with resources and referral information was also made available.

“It is possible to portray suicide in a way that cultivates hope by increasing awareness of available supports for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or behaviors,” said John Ackerman, a co-author on the study and a suicide prevention coordinator who has written a blog for parents about “13 Reasons Why.” ″However, this study demonstrates parents should be cautious about exposing youth to this series. With a third season of the series expected to air soon, continued surveillance is needed to monitor potential consequences on suicide rates in association with viewing the series.”

The show is popular, no doubt. That should make it easier for us all to talk about. Going forward, we must be mindful that suicide may be on kids’ minds again as the show’s third season launches later this year.

In Vermont, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey done for 2017 polled more than 20,500 high school students from 69 schools around Vermont. (They also poll middle school students.) The report found that when it comes to students’ mental health, there are serious concerns lurking.

“Both the high school and middle school surveys asked students about suicidality,” the report stated. “The high school survey asked students about feeling sad or hopeless, intentional self-harming behaviors and plans for dying by suicide and actual suicide attempts. . The middle school survey focused on suicidality by asking students about suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts.”

The statistics are troubling. In 2017, overall, 16% of surveyed students, or nearly 3,300, reported hurting themselves without wanting to die. They did so through cutting or burning themselves on purpose. From 2009 to 2015, self-harming behaviors significantly increased. Since 2015, however, fewer students reported harming themselves on purpose, the results found. That trend is encouraging, overall.

Among Vermont middle-schoolers, 19% of those surveyed said they had felt hopeless or sad; 18% said they had thought seriously about killing themselves; 12% said they had made a plan; and 6% of those surveyed said they had made an attempt at suicide.

“Youth development requires multiple sources of positive influence and protective factors, these include environmental characteristics, or conditions, or behaviors that can reduce the effects of stressful life events, increase the ability to avoid risk behaviors, and promote social and emotional competence,” the report’s authors wrote.

The struggle for teenagers is real, and social media and popular shows give those struggles a new — more prominent — face. We need to talk to our kids and help them through rough patches. We need to listen and support our youth; and, yes, we must talk to them about what they are watching and processing. We need to know why.

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

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