Editorials from around Pennsylvania

March 20, 2019

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



Pennsylvania lawmakers have many more important issues demanding their attention than considering whether Daylight Savings Time, which went into effect last weekend, should in the future be eliminated in the commonwealth.

As long as the whole nation, or a region of the country like the Middle Atlantic States, doesn’t revert to permanent Standard Time, Pennsylvania shouldn’t opt for the change by itself.

Consider the confusion that could result if numerous states across the country randomly started opting for the change.

For our state, Daylight Savings Time has been a point of conversation since March 6, when CBS Philly reported that a member of the state General Assembly was planning to introduce legislation to end the practice of moving clocks ahead by one hour in the springtime.

That lawmaker, Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, said there are good reasons for keeping Standard Time in effect year-round. He referred to studies indicating that DST can be responsible for increased health risks and fatigued driving. He also pointed to a 2016 study of 300 U.S. cities that found DST responsible for $434 million in annual economic losses, including negative economic impact in every Pennsylvania metropolitan area studied.

“Changing clocks twice every year simply because ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is not enough reason to continue the practice,” Diamond said.

Maybe not, but one state on a Standard Time “island” while other states are observing DST doesn’t make sense.

It’s true that Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST, but their locations aren’t conducive to the confusion that could reign for most other parts of the country.

Pennsylvania seldom is a leader regarding anything new. If it wants to change its current follower status, it should do so via a more important cause.

There is plenty of more important business facing lawmakers than wasting time on a proposal for which there is no real urgency and for which state residents and visitors might be better served by relegating the idea to some dusty shelf.

Meanwhile, there’s a window for disputing at least one of Diamond’s arguments: his emphasis on fatigued driving.

In 1975, the federal Department of Transportation conservatively identified a 0.7 percent reduction in traffic fatalities during Daylight Savings Time but estimated the real reduction as between 1.5 percent and 2 percent.

So Diamond might be wrong about DST’s overall impact on transportation.

Diamond’s point about virtually non-existent energy savings due to DST apparently is correct. A 2017 meta-analysis of 44 studies found that DST leads to electricity savings of only 0.34 percent during days when DST applies.

And, it’s believed that clock shifts increase the risk of a heart attack by 10 percent, which is consistent with Diamond’s concern about adverse health impacts.

Still, DST proponents argue that it saves energy, promotes outdoor leisure activity that’s good for physical and psychological health, helps reduce crime and is good for business.

If and when there’s a decision on DST, it should be a joint decision rather than one state “going it alone.”

If Diamond is insistent about promoting his idea, he should first convince officials of other states to join him.

__ The Altoona Mirror

__ Online: https://bit.ly/2FhVHuJ



“What Will I Be Telling My Kids?”


“Denial is not a policy”

“Make Earth Cool Again”

“There is no Planet B”

These were among the slogans on the handmade signs that students from across Lancaster County displayed Friday in Penn Square. Their local numbers were relatively small, but they were part of a growing worldwide chorus of young people — including more than 150,000 across Europe that day, per the AP — who are concerned about the future of Earth’s climate.

The message is clear.

The planet is warming rapidly, and we must respond faster.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, began staging demonstration last year to decry the lack of action to combat climate change. Since then, the AP reports, “the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fueled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students’ lifetime.” Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Climate change is an existential crisis, Thunberg says. We agree. This is a pivotal turning point. In December, we stated: “We, as individual citizens, must be examples and leaders, too. We must change our consumption habits, pivot toward renewable energy and be willing to make inconvenient adjustments to our fossil-fueled lifestyles. We can do these things. Or we can doom our descendants, starting with those who have already been born, to a likely future of devastating hurricanes, droughts, crop disasters, food shortages, health epidemics and coastal flooding across the globe.”

And so we praise students — here and across the world — for standing up and getting loud on this issue.

Thunberg’s movement, #FridaysForFuture, is a peaceful and appropriate way for young people to make their voices heard.

“This is the generation that’s going to have to deal with that,” Ashton Clatterbuck, a senior at The Stone Independent School, told LancasterOnline’s Ty Lohr on Friday. Students from multiple schools took part in the protest, and afterward, Lohr reported, “the students marched to Republican Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s office to deliver a letter.”

That letter, Clatterbuck told Lohr, asked Smucker to “take serious action steps to create a bill or a resolution that will curb climate change in the drastic ways that we need to see.”

Drastic measures are needed. The Guardian reported last week that a sharp rise in Arctic temperatures is now inevitable — even if the worldwide greenhouse-gas emission cutbacks called for in the 2016 Paris Agreement are achieved. We are on the verge of a runaway warming event, scientists say. According to The Guardian, “Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming.”

Indeed, there is no Planet B.

Friday’s worldwide demonstrations did not go unnoticed.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they inspired him to call for a special summit later this year. In an op-ed for The Guardian, he wrote: “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders: We are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing — we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial. My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”

What they are doing is a true wonder.

“There (is) a crisis in front of us that we have to live with, that we will have to live with for all our lives, our children, our grandchildren and all future generations,” Thunberg said, per the AP. “We are on strike because we do want a future.”

We should all want a future.

Students and children cannot write the laws needed to slow or reverse climate change. But they can urge — and keep urging — our leaders to prioritize and pass such legislation.

They’re doing their part.

We should join and support them.

Every Friday, if need be.

__ The LNP

__ Online: https://bit.ly/2uiOjdh



Over a month ago, Bobby Henon, councilman for the 6th District, was charged with conspiracy, bribery, and fraud in a federal indictment that also charged seven others, including IBEW 98 head John Dougherty, for a total of 116 counts. Henon was accused, among other things, of using his Council seat to strong-arm a repair job at the Children’s Hospital at Penn on behalf of IBEW 98, which also pays him a salary.

Last week, the filing deadline for May’s primary election came and went. Bobby Henon has no challenger.

In other cheerful news, three former Traffic Court judges announced last month that they were also throwing their hat into the ring for a Council seat. Not long ago, all three finished serving time in prison on various ticket-fixing charges, a scandal that went so deep that the court itself was eliminated. (At least one has dropped out.)

On the Republican side, party-endorsed mayoral candidate Daphne Goggins dropped out of the race the day before the deadline for nominating petitions. Her fitness for office was a question, especially after she revealed that federal disability payments she has been receiving were related to anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder that emerged after she gave up cocaine in 2005. The Republican Party voted to endorse her twice.

There are stories like these every election season. They are symptoms of a disease not exclusive to Philadelphia, but one we suffer acutely. At its root are two calcified political party machines devoted to their own survival over ensuring vital and healthy political debates and elections.

The Henon example is particularly telling. Henon has proclaimed his innocence and has every right to fight to keep his seat. But no one thought there was a chance to win against the entrenched party machine, which has kept silent on the indictment. No one thought they had a chance against a candidate surrounded by questions and scandal because of the monolithic power of a few party leaders. That’s not democracy. That’s tyranny. And it holds this city back from long-term and meaningful progress.

This season, there is reason for optimism. A high number of candidates for City Council have filed to run. At least 34 candidates have emerged for seven at-large seats, and a similar number for district races. They include young candidates, and candidates devoted to reform and to overcoming the party structure. Voters should pay close attention to these candidates, though the number is daunting.

To help, The Inquirer is partnering with a number of organizations to host a Council Candidate Convention. In mid-April (place and date to be confirmed), all candidates for City Council — both district and at-large — will be invited to meet the public. Committee of Seventy, League of Women Voters, WHYY, Media Mobilizing Project, Young Involved Philadelphia, On the Table Philly, Temple University’s Master of Public Policy and others are sponsoring this event to give as much exposure as possible to candidates and issues. The Inquirer will be interviewing candidates as part of our endorsement process. If you’re interested in the event as a candidate or a voter, email us at 19election@philly.com.

__ The Philadelphia Inquirer

__ Online: https://bit.ly/2uhi1iL



The mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative afflictions have been notoriously difficult to solve. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars worth of research, little progress has been made in finding a treatment for these diseases, which Harvard researchers predict will affect as many as 1 in 5 Americans by 2030.

But recently, two research teams, one from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the other from the Salk Institute in San Diego, published findings that have opened a window for advancements in treating these horrific diseases.

The team from Cedars-Sinai found that “transplanting the bone marrow of young laboratory mice into old mice prevented cognitive decline in the old mice, preserving their memory and learning abilities.” According to the report, the research supports “an emerging model that attributes cognitive decline, in part, to aging of blood cells, which are produced in bone marrow.”

At the Salk Institute, meanwhile, researchers found that the Californian herb Yerba santa produces a natural compound, sterubin, that has “neuroprotective” qualities. Like the bone marrow transplant procedure, sterubin was tested on mice, and it was found that the mice’s nerve cells, a vulnerable target of neurodegenerative illness, were protected from damage.

There are reasons to be skeptical of the findings. Perhaps the most significant hang-up is that mice are, of course, not human. And oftentimes treatments that work on mice in the lab do not translate to humans. So there is a long way to go before either of these discoveries can be seen as a bonafide treatment for neurodegenerative disease.

But the progress on finding any treatments for these devastating afflictions has been so slow that any step forward should be applauded. It remains to be seen if the findings from Cedars-Sinai and the Salk Institute will help humans stem the tide of neurodegeneration, but one thing is for sure: We will never find the key to treating these diseases unless researchers remain persistent, working to help humanity and tackle our most vexing challenges.

__ The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

__ Online: https://bit.ly/2UHboC2



If you were one of those who could not post to Facebook or Instagram Wednesday and felt uneasy or a experienced FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), congratulations! You may have experienced a relatively new affliction dubbed “Nomophobia.”

A search on Google (which is a big part of the addiction to all things internet) defines the term as an irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use it for some reason (such as Facebook failure).

The word is reportedly a 2010 shorthand for “no-mobile-phone phobia.” An article on the Scientific American website cites research showing reliance on our phones as an external source of information reduces our ability to acquire and retain knowledge about particular topics. It’s true of other sources of info: If you hang around someone with expertise on a particular topic, you probably won’t bother developing that expertise, even if doing so would help you in your daily job or private life.

Smart phones are simply becoming another companion, though more constantly available and near-omniscient. The Sci Am article notes research has found that “when it comes to acquisition and retention of information, our brains treat our devices like relationship partners.”

A September 2014 article in Psychology Today called Nomophobia “a rising trend in students,” hardly a surprise to teachers and college professors. A particularly unsettling finding: 34 percent of people admitted to answering their phone during intimacy with a partner.

In her 2012 book Alone Together, social scientist and psychologist Sherry Turkle addressed the evolution of our dependence on — and more importantly, attitude toward — rapidly-evolving social media and robot programs masquerading as real humans (Alexa, Siri and those programs guiding you through options when you call mega-companies these days, to name a few).

The book hit several recurring themes, one of the biggest being the transition we have made from thinking of these digital entities as “good enough” for tasks at hand to considering them “better than” human interaction.

The quintessential example: People, particularly young people, dislike using the phone as, well, a phone. Actually calling someone is too personal, too invasive. Texting is considered better, more socially acceptable, less stressful or intrusive. Similarly, social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram are considered easier ways to stay in touch than live interaction.

The irony, of course, as Turkle’s title suggests, is that we believe we are better connected by radically reducing physical connections (alone together). We are also, she notes, bombarded with endless digital pings from everyone and anyone via each digital option. We get texts, emails (now dated), Facebook updates, Instagram notifications, tweets and much more, so much so that people, particularly teens, ignore the world around them to focus on our phones (some teens Turkle interviewed conceded that if they get a text while driving, they have an uncontrollable need to read them, even knowing the distraction can be deadly).

And we feel slighted, even anxious, when someone does not respond to our texts, posts and other digital outreach in a timely fashion.

If you felt uneasy, even deprived, during a few hours without Facebook, perhaps you should consider it a warning, and an example. The world, including yours, went on just fine without you making posts or getting them. In a real emergency, your phone would still have worked as a phone.

__ The Times Leader

__ Online: https://bit.ly/2Wenpzf