A sampling of editorials from around New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Glens Falls Post-Star on preventing the spread of methamphetamine production and use in New York.

Nov. 23

Acetone, anhydrous ammonia, hydrochloric acid, lithium, red phosphorous, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, toluene.

Human beings have made a long list of products from those chemicals, including nail polish remover, paint thinner, fertilizer, pool supplies, batteries, road flares, lye, drain cleaner, brake cleaner and methamphetamine.

In addition to the common cold medicine ingredient pseudoephedrine, various chemicals are used to make meth, which can be manufactured in a variety of ways.

But whether meth is made with a corrosive lye or a solvent like toluene, it is one of the nastiest things on the planet that people put in their bodies.

Although New York has been largely spared by the meth scourge that has ravaged the Midwest, local police have reported a handful of meth arrests in recent months. This is cause for concern, because meth is both powerfully addictive and astonishingly destructive.

The television show “Breaking Bad” has given the methamphetamine scene a gilding it doesn’t deserve. For a clear-eyed look at meth, visit the website of the Montana Meth Project (montana.methproject.org), which was started in 2005, when half of the state’s inmates were incarcerated on meth charges and half of the state’s foster care admissions were tied to meth.

In 2005, Montana ranked No. 5 in the nation for meth abuse. Eight years later, Montana ranks 39th and teen meth use and meth-connected crime have declined by more than 60 percent.

The Meth Project’s statewide campaign, using advertising across all media, has been effective. Some of their TV spots, along with educational material on meth and a film focusing on the lives of meth addicts, can be seen on the website.

The site has a graphic, illustrated film of how meth works in the synapses of the brain, exciting euphoria, then deadening a users’ ability to feel pleasure. Even that film is frightening.

Use meth and you’re tinkering with the fundamental chemistry of your brain. Serious and sometimes permanent damage results.

Montana activists reacted after meth already wreaked havoc in the state. New Yorkers would do well to aim for preventing a disaster rather than reacting to one.

Numerous meth busts have already taken place just north of our region, in Clinton and Franklin counties. Local police officers, who have received training in recognizing and handling meth-related crimes, expect use of the drug to increase.

The police may be ready for meth, but our local communities are not. We’d like to see local organizations that focus on drug abuse and teen issues turn their attention to this threat.

Fortunately, no one has to start from scratch in fighting meth, because the Montana Meth Project has established a template for action and has numerous resources that can be tapped. Seven other states have Meth Project affiliates now.

Montana Meth Project has been recognized worldwide for its emphasis on empowering young people to make smart decisions. Barron’s, the national financial newspaper, recently named it the third most effective philanthropy in the world.

The Meth Project takes a grassroots approach, encouraging teens to educate themselves and spread the message among their peers. Young people organized the largest teen demonstration in Montana’s history, the March Against Meth. The project sponsors the Paint the State art contest, in which thousands of people paint public murals with anti-meth messages.

Most effectively, the website answers any questions you could have about methamphetamine, through films, graphic illustrations, personal testimonials and science. The information isn’t sensationalized, but it’s horrifying nonetheless. The ghoulish appearance of meth addicts — the rotting teeth and skin lesions — is bad enough, but the damage done to brains and nervous systems is worse.

“Breaking Bad” can be a thrilling show, but the reality of meth use reminds us more of “The Walking Dead,” as addicts descend into a putrid existence fixated on a single desire — getting more meth.

Maybe our luck will hold locally, but it’s worth spending some time and effort to improve our odds. We should do everything we can now, before meth gets here, to keep it out.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/18jP9Zd

The Gloversville Leader-Herald on wasteful state employment and recruiting practices.

Nov. 21

To say New York state spends money like a drunken sailor is an insult — to sailors, who couldn’t waste in a lifetime the money the state manages to spend in a year.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced Tuesday state agencies spent more than $462 million on overtime in the first nine months of 2013, a jump of $65 million over the same period in 2012.

DiNapoli noted if the trend continues, the state could spend more than $600 million by the end of the calendar year on overtime, a substantial jump from last year.

It’s discouraging to see New York state appears to be issuing its agencies a blank check to cover overtime costs. It would help Cuomo — who has been touting that New York is open for business — if he actually made sure state agencies operated more like a business. Any private employer is cautious about paying people 1 times their regular pay to do the same work. For the state to allow an agency such as the Office of Information Technology to have a 517 percent increase in overtime is outrageous.

Another example of state government fiscal waste is the state’s use of a “headhunter.”

The Cuomo administration quietly hired a Rochester-area headhunter this spring to lure the “best and brightest” to state government jobs. The deal, exposed by the New York Daily News, could give the Datrose company a whopping $20.6 million over five years. It’s already spent nearly $166,000.

This money is lining the pockets of a company recruiting people for jobs that already sell themselves. State jobs pay well and come with great health insurance, retirement plans and other benefits. If the state advertises its job openings, strong candidates will seek them. There is no need for a headhunter.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/IdN4BW

The Buffalo News on the international agreement easing sanctions on Iran in exchange for a temporary freeze on its nuclear program.

Nov. 26

The accord that would temporarily freeze much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief is an unavoidable step in a process that has a long way to go.

It is a six-month deal with the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, world powers that must be willing to react appropriately if Iran breaks, or even bends, its promise.

Israel is furious. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls the interim agreement a “historic mistake.” He should recognize it as a historic opportunity for keeping Israel’s mortal enemy, Iran, from building nuclear weapons without resorting to military action. The benefits to both sides in concluding a workable, permanent agreement are such that it’s worth a temporary easing of sanctions.

For Iran’s part, it will enjoy billions of dollars in financial relief from economic sanctions while preserving most of its nuclear infrastructure during negotiations on a permanent agreement. Such concessions were the price of bringing Iran to the negotiating table, but during the new talks, the United States will maintain the core oil and banking sanctions that made Iran willing to talk.

To world leaders, the interim agreement won key concessions: Iran will discontinue enriching uranium beyond 5 percent and neutralize uranium enriched beyond that point; allow greater access to inspectors, including daily access at the Natanz and Fordo nuclear sites; and stop development of the Arak nuclear plant, which could produce plutonium for weapons.

Iran must believe that these things are worth giving up in exchange for sanction relief worth $7 billion. That money would be doled out over the course of the six months of talks on a permanent agreement, giving Iran incentive to keep working toward a deal.

The interim agreement does not dismantle important aspects of Iran’s nuclear capacity or potential. It does not even require Iran to give up its “right” to enrich uranium. Those issues will be negotiated in the next six months. The deal sets limited goals for a limited time in return for limited relief. It offers breathing room with the hope that Iran will see it has more to gain from cooperating with the West than it does from building nuclear weapons.

If Iran does not uphold its end of the bargain, it will face tougher sanctions and a renewed threat of military action.

Again, this is a temporary deal. There is a risk in easing sanctions, but there is a bigger risk in going down the road to military action. The agreement is built on hope, and based on Iran’s history it is difficult to be optimistic. But it is worth trying.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/IqRXHA

The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s push to change the handling of sex abuse cases in the military.

Nov. 20

Should sex abuse cases in the military be taken outside the chain of command, a move that most victims have called for and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is leading the charge for? Yes, sir!

In the past year and a half, in response to various scandals and reports, the armed services have instituted a number of reforms aimed at combating rampant sex abuse within the ranks, including legal counsel for victims and education programs for commanders. And now Congress is considering more changes, as it has become obvious that the reforms haven’t worked. The number of reported cases increased from 3,192 in 2011 to 3,374 in 2012.

But that’s only part of it. Based on an anonymous survey, the Pentagon estimates there were actually as many as 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012, compared to 19,000 in 2010. That means around 85 percent go unreported. The reason is that the victims (some men, but mostly women) fear they won’t be believed if they come forward, or there will be no punishment for the perpetrator, or they themselves will be retaliated against.

A big part of the problem is that commanders call the shots. They’re the ones who make the final decision on whether or not a case is prosecuted. They have the sole discretion to set aside or overturn a guilty verdict, as one Air Force general did in March for a lieutenant colonel under his command. And in the vast majority of cases, they are men — older ones who came up in a system without women, a system with a macho culture where rank and personal relationships matter a lot.

So it didn’t come as that big a surprise when, earlier this year, a male sex assault prevention officer was arrested for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot (he was acquitted in a Virginia court last week). Or when a retired female who held a similar job at the Air National Guard base in Glenville claimed that sex abuse cases there were routinely ignored, that perpetrators not only went unpunished, but were promoted.

Faced with continuing stories and reports about sex assaults as well as Gillibrand’s pressure, the Senate is now considering additional reforms. They include stripping commanders of the authority to dismiss court-martial convictions for sex offenses; subjecting commanders’ decisions not to prosecute in such cases to review by higher-ups; and making retaliation against a victim who reports a sex offense illegal.

This would be progress, but not enough to quickly change such an ingrained culture. The best hope is still Gillibrand’s bill to take the decision to prosecute out of the hands of commanders and give it to trained military prosecutors. With a vote on that highly controversial measure possibly coming this week, Gillibrand and her opponents are lobbying the 25-30 undecided senators hard for support. We wish her luck.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1cqyaSf

Newsday on the Democrat majority in the Senate eliminating filibusters during confirmations of presidential appointments.

Nov. 21

Senate Democrats went nuclear Thursday. They blew up a long-standing Senate rule that allowed the minority party to use filibusters to block most presidential appointments.

While Democrats and Republicans have each threatened over the years to make that most significant procedural change in a generation, the issue exploded this week when Republicans filibustered three of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the prominent appeals court in Washington. Democrats had used the same tactic to block many of George W. Bush’s nominations.

The problem is filibuster abuse. The obstructionist tactic had become so routine in the last decade that the 60-vote supermajority needed to end a filibuster in the 100-member Senate had become the bar for getting almost anything done. The result in the bitterly partisan Senate has been gridlock. Yesterday’s historic change was a pragmatic response to that intolerable situation. It could come back to bite Democrats when they’re in the minority. Still, the Senate has to function.

Under the new rule, it will take just 51 votes, rather than 60, to confirm judicial and executive branch nominees. That rule doesn’t apply to bills or Supreme Court nominees. Those can still be filibustered.

It has traditionally taken 67 votes to alter a Senate rule. Majority Leader Harry Reid used procedural maneuvers to skirt that requirement so only 51 votes were needed to restrict the filibuster. He got 52 votes — 50 Democrats and two independents. Circumventing the need for a supermajority was labeled the “nuclear option” because it signaled the potential to obliterate any remaining comity in the Senate. Members of both parties threatened to go nuclear in the past, but some last-minute deal always allowed them to avoid the mushroom cloud. That no deal was possible this time shows the depth of Senate dysfunction. It was time to give rule by a simple majority a try.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1foioMr

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