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Editorials from around New York

December 12, 2018

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

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The Rome Sentinel on the NASA InSight lander

Dec. 6

Let’s take a moment to marvel at what we can do when we are at our best.

NASA’s InSight lander successfully touched down on Mars last week, a few minutes before 3 p.m. Eastern time, ending a journey of more than six months and 300 million miles.

The path to the successful landing, of course, started much earlier than that. It was the eighth successful Mars landing since Viking 1 in 1976, and each mission builds on the one before it.

You can go back even further, too, to the beginnings of the space program, to the first satellites launched nervously into orbit, to the eventual landmark landing of a manned spacecraft on the moon, and to every mission and experiment that came after.

All that experience and success may have over time made space exploration seem routine — oh, look, we landed on Mars again. However, it is anything but. It takes state-of-the-art technology operated by people with high levels of expertise and focus — and even then, only about 40 percent of Mars landings are successful.

Anyone watching this week can see why. InSight entered the Martian atmosphere traveling at about 12,300 mph. It had to do so precisely at the entry angle of 12 degrees; otherwise, it would have either burned up or bounced back into space.

The entry into the atmosphere begins the “seven minutes of terror,” as NASA officials call it, named after the time from entry until the landing of earlier Mars missions. In that time, through the use of a parachute and rockets, and with the help of atmospheric drag, the lander dropped from 12,300 mph to 5 mph right before it settled into the soft soil.

InSight, launched in May from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, landed at Elysium Planitia, a flat, barren landscape from which the lander will begin the first-ever investigation of the interior of Mars, sending images at regular intervals back to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Working slowly with only those occasional images as guides, NASA operators will over the next few months confirm that InSight is working. Then it will get to work. An arm on the lander will be used to place seismometers on the ground to listen to the planet’s tremors, or marsquakes — the red planet’s equivalent of earthquakes. A separate instrument will burrow 16 feet into the ground.

Together, those instruments will over the course of two years try to tell us something about how Mars formed. In doing so, scientists hope it will also tell us how Earth, a rocky planet just like Mars, may have formed as well.

In that way, InSight is like a time machine, taking us back to see what Earth might have been like millions of years ago, providing elusive answers to our own origins.

It is an amazing accomplishment, one that should be free of rancor and cynicism. When we want to, we can reach the stars.

Online: https://bit.ly/2C4pWEO

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The Daily News on the special committee report on state lawmaker pay

Dec. 12

The report of the special committee setting Albany pay gets a grade of A-minus for power-washing a filthy Capitol. Tom DiNapoli, Scott Stringer, Carl McCall and Bill Thompson earned the thanks of all New Yorkers.

If legislators don’t like it, tough noogies. They’re the ones who cravenly punted to a panel.

Lawmakers’ base salaries, unchanged at $79,500 for 20 years, will rise in three steps while corruption-inducing outside income will be strictly capped and most of the extra lulu payments for favored members nixed.

Eighty-seven Senate lulus (for 63 senators!) will winnow down to six; 108 Assembly lulus will be cut to nine. There should’ve been fewer. In Congress, there are just three lulus per chamber — the majority getting two, the minority one.

Happily, new Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger is declining her $34,000 lulu. That leaves Senate Democrats with two lulus, for Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ($41,500) and Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris ($34,000). Minority Republicans should limit themselves to one lulu for leader John Flanagan ($34,500) and dispense with the two other $20,500 lulus.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie ($41,500) not only gets to award the $34,500 majority leader lulu, but the panel also wrongly gave him lulus for the speaker pro tempore and the chairs of Ways and Means and Codes, while Republican Leader Brian Kolb gets his own, which is OK, and three more to hand out, which is not OK.

Imperfect, but progress.

Online: https://nydn.us/2QK9MsA

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The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on George H.W. Bush

Dec. 11

The recent death of George H.W. Bush, America’s 41st president, brought us an unusual respite from political strife.

During Bush’s presidency, he was known as George Bush, not George H.W. Bush. That latter designation was necessitated later, of course, by the election of his son, George, to the office.

Only John and John Quincy Adams had been father-son U.S. presidents before them.

The term of office of the elder Bush has not yet had enough time to be fully assessed for its impact on history. He was not re-elected for a second term, his first having been soiled by a mild recession.

However, his term was notable for several important international events for which he may eventually be given some credit. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union was dissolved two years later. Both will occupy entire chapters in world-history books perhaps forever.

Bush also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, of which President Trump, a fellow Republican, has been so critical.

Bush was a man of enormous accomplishment before he became president, as we were reminded repeatedly last week.

He delayed college as an 18-year-old in 1941 so he could enlist in the military to fight in World War II. In fact, he became the Navy’s youngest combat pilot. His heroic adventures during the war were well recognized and documented during the many eulogies we heard last week.

Upon returning home, he entered Yale and became a millionaire businessman before getting immersed in politics. In the latter arena, he became a congressman, U.N. ambassador, CIA director and vice president before defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988 for the nation’s top office.

That is quite the resume. A war hero and president — reminiscent of Washington, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

We were reminded often during the past week of the quiet dignity, the down-to-earth kindness, the endearing sense of humor with which Bush conducted his life, both in public and private.

We were also reminded how he was able to embrace political foes and allies alike to rally them to find the best answers for the nation as opposed to just party.

It was a very pleasant — almost joyous — relief from the unrelenting political animus that surrounds us today.

Do you suppose it should be too much to ask that our political leaders could be impressed enough by that temporary truce to be motivated to try to make it permanent?

Could mutual respect and understanding replace hostility and self-aggrandizement?

Some observers have insisted the media, so affectionate toward Bush in his death, were critical toward him in equal measure during his tenure. The media’s job is to report facts as they find them, not to dispense favor or fault. Bush understood that.

Last week was a return to an America of class and taste that most of us desperately wish still prevailed.

Online: https://bit.ly/2UzzY8m

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The New York Post on the NYPD’s arrest of Jazmine Headley

Dec. 11

Everyone agrees: Friday’s incident at the Brooklyn HRA office, where cops fought to pry a baby from his screaming mom, should never have happened. And there’s a ton of blame to go around here.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill immediately ordered an investigation into the nightmare, and rightly so: His officers’ use of force to wrestle away the child — a 17-month-old baby! — looks massively excessive.

Yet the mom, Jazmine Headley, reportedly refused to move from the floor where she was sitting. As patrolmen’s union chief Pat Lynch notes, “The event would have unfolded much differently if those at the scene had simply complied with the officers’ lawful orders.”

Headley’s lawyer, Lisa Schreibersdorf, argues that, with no chairs available, her client was forced to sit on the floor after standing nearly four hours waiting to discuss benefits with an HRA agent.

But Teamsters Local 237 boss Greg Floyd, who represents HRA guards, says his members told him there were open chairs. And Headley, he added, bit one of the guards.

OK, there may well be more to the story than what’s seen on that viral video. Yet surely the cops and the guards could’ve tried harder to defuse the situation.

Why call in the police rather than an HRA social worker to calm the mom down? And what of the de-escalation training the NYPD rolled out after the fatal 2014 takedown of Eric Garner as he resisted arrest? It clearly didn’t help much here.

HRA also bears blame for operating centers that get so overcrowded and forcing clients to wait so long. The average wait runs a full hour, the agency says; that means some go far longer. That’s not only inhumane; it invites just the kind of chaos that erupted Friday.

Noting that “this indictment should have been handled differently,” Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez has dropped all charges against Headley. In fact, everything in this mess should’ve been handled differently.

Online: https://nyp.st/2QLjDhU

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Newsday on the possibility of a federal government shutdown

Dec. 11

For the third time this year, a federal government shutdown looms as President Donald Trump demands more money for a Southern border wall in exchange for a budget deal with congressional leaders.

How can Trump blame Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who is likely to be speaker of the House, for not paying up when he’s always promised that Mexico would foot the bill?

Tuesday at the White House, Trump met with Pelosi and Schumer. The Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security, approximately the same amount appropriated for this year, but mostly not spent. But the math didn’t dominate a meeting that turned into a confrontation. Trump needled Pelosi by implying she is weak in her caucus, and he seemed blown back when she hit hard on his party’s House losses. The president also taunted Schumer with threats of a shutdown, only to have the grimacing senator say of his budget offer, “It’s called funding the government, Mr. President.” Then Trump pounced on the idea of a shutdown, saying, “I will take the mantle, I will be the one to shut it down,” if they won’t fund more wall construction. In January, Schumer offered Trump $25 billion for the wall in return for protection from deportation for 800,000 immigrants brought here as children. Trump turned it down, and much of the federal government shut down for three days. The president often wants to fight, especially over the wall, more than he wants to win.

But the American people do not want a shutdown. Polls show they do want a path to legal residency for “Dreamers,” whose lives are so important that it would be worth giving Trump more wall money to secure their futures. If Trump wants that deal, Democrats ought to listen. If not, they ought to let him put his shutdown on his shoulders.

Or he can get the money from Mexico, as he’s always promised.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/2ErsoIa

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