Editorial Roundup: Pennsylvania

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

An uncertain school year begins

The Citizen’s Voice

Aug. 25

A school year full of uncertainty begins today as the Dallas School District becomes the first public district in Wyoming Valley to resume classes, with half the student body attending in-person sessions and the other half learning from home.

Over the next two weeks, other districts, each with its own distinct learning plan, will welcome students for a 2020-2021 that is sure to be marked by surprises, adjustments and frustrations.

Reopening plans range from the optimistic at Lake-Lehman, where all students who choose in-person instruction will report to classrooms, to the cautious at Wyoming Area, which has scheduled online-only learning through Nov. 9.

Of course, any of these well-laid plans could change in an instant due to outbreaks, drastically reduced infection rates or a long-shot vaccine breakthrough.

The fate of extracurricular activities remains largely undecided and the future of fall sports is muddled by the reluctance of the governor, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and local conferences to dictate a larger strategy.

But local administrators and school boards deserve a lot of credit for crafting thoughtful, flexible plans tailored to their own infrastructures, enrollments and capacities.

This will be an unsettling fall for students, teachers, parents and administrators alike, but the main mission of our schools, education, must go on.

So welcome to 2020-2021. Stay safe. Follow the rules. And let’s hope for a return to normalcy before the year is out.

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

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Parties at Penn State despite the coronavirus were so predictable

Harrisburg Patriot News/Pennlive.com

Aug. 21

Some things are just so easy to predict. Who couldn’t have predicted students would party at Penn State if the campus opened in the middle of a pandemic?

It really didn’t take very long for the videos to light up social media. PennLive’s Matt Miller wasn’t the only person to see the videos showing “several dozen students dancing, jumping and twerking outside East Hall without masks and without the slightest attempt at social distancing.”

It only took two days for the freshmen to get busy. But they shouldn’t take all the blame. There were likely sophomores, juniors and seniors in the mix. And is it really hard to imagine a good many are convinced they won’t get sick from the coronavirus or doubt there even is one?

The young people acted just as they do everywhere . . . taking risks, ignoring warnings and partying all night long – without any thought to a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands around the world.

Ok, it’s not every 18-year-old. Some students really do devote long hours to solitary study and obeying rules. But it’s not hard to imagine many teens feeling their first taste of freedom will be tempted to break the rules.

It’s not their fault. The young people are not to blame. It’s the adults who should know better. School administrators are experts in student behavior. They see thousands of youth each year. They know exactly how kids act, and they had to know there would be videos of frenzied parties with young people spreading their droplets around with abandon.

Many professors are rightly concerned, especially because they are older, wiser and with underlying health conditions. Some of Penn State’s faculty and students opposed the decision to open the campus, believing it was too much of a risk for public safety. Seems they are right.

To try to contain things at Penn State, University President Eric Barron has issued a public rebuke and warned students the campus might have to close if the parties continue. But is it so hard to predict this -- the parties will go on?

“Do you want to be the person responsible for sending everyone home?” Barron implored students, apparently hoping to spark some sort of conscience and responsible behavior in teenagers. Penn State also announced a “Mask Up or Pack Up” program, again to convince students – all of them -- to follow the coronavirus rules.

Barron said he was impressed many students are maintaining social distancing as well as masking. No doubt, many are. But it only takes a few giddy kids to spread the coronavirus and infect the more mature ones who obey the rules. And from the looks of those videos, it’s more than a few who, predictably, could spread COVID-19 throughout the Penn State campus and beyond.

Penn State is in the spotlight now. But it’s not just Penn State that has to deal with the utterly predictable behavior of youth. It’s every college and university that has decided to act in its own economic interests and let students return to campus.

“Yeah, psu is gonna get shut down in a week,” one person quipped on social media after viewing the videos. That’s what happened at other colleges that decided to reopen earlier. They had to close within weeks. It’s just so easy to understand why many are predicting the same for Penn State.

Online: https://bit.ly/2YEEiqm ___

Let’s keep up fight against hate crimes

Reading Eagle

Aug. 24

During this summer filled with troubles on many fronts, the all too familiar problem of anti-Semitism has made an unwelcome return to Pennsylvania.

This month a Harrisburg synagogue was defaced with two red swastikas painted at its entrance, causing alarm not just in the state capital but among Jewish communities and their allies all over Pennsylvania.

The issue of anti-Semitism has been overshadowed by other developments in recent months, but many of us have not forgotten the shocking acts of animus against Jews in the last few years in a nation where they were thought to be safe from such attacks.

We also haven’t forgotten that one of the most shocking of those acts took place here in Pennsylvania when a gunman slaughtered 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. It was followed by acts of violence against Jews in Poway, Calif.; Jersey City, N.J.’ Monsey, N.Y.; and Brooklyn, N.Y.

An act of vandalism may seem minor compared with these recent attacks, but it serves as a chilling reminder of the hatred that’s out there and the need for all people of goodwill to be vigilant in fighting it.

As has been the case with other anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., the defacing of a wall at Kesher Israel Congregation prompted a heartening response.

“I don’t think it’s in any way a reflection of our Harrisburg community,” Kesher Israel Rabbi Elisha Friedman told PennLive. “The community is very supportive - the Jewish and the non-Jewish community, law enforcement, elected officials and neighbors.”

Friedman said plans were in the works for an interfaith show of support.

It’s important for people of all faiths to stand up against this kind of hatred. One reason is to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Another is that synagogues are hardly the only houses of worship targeted by people with hate and sometimes violence on their minds. Churches, mosques and other religious institutions have been attacked as well.

Anti-Semitism is a particular concern right now because of some troubling statistical trends. The Anti-Defamation League reported that in 2019 the American Jewish community experienced the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents since tracking began in 1979, with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the United States. Those figures included five fatalities directly linked to antis-Semitic violence and another 91 individuals targeted in physical assaults.

Though it wasn’t directly related to the latest incident in Harrisburg, we were pleased to see that the state police have announced that they are beefing up efforts to fight hate crimes.

PennLive reported that four troopers are being added to the force’s Heritage Affairs Section, which investigates hate crimes.

All Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies can investigate hate crimes. The Heritage Affairs Section is dedicated to assisting other police agencies in preventing, monitoring, responding to and investigating occurrences criminal acts motivated by racial, religious and other biases.

State police said expanding the Heritage Affairs Section will help particularly in its work on improving relationships between police and the communities they serve.

“Establishing lines of communication to facilitate meaningful collaboration with local leaders is an important part of community policing, which is why we have dedicated additional resources to the Heritage Affairs Section,” state police Commissioner Robert Evanchick told PennLive..

Corporal Timothy Greene has been assigned to the unit that covers Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, and York counties. A former firefighter and paramedic, Green became the first minority fire chief of Concordville Fire Company in Delaware County at the age of 24, according to PennLive.

We offer our strongest support to the troopers and all others engaged in fighting bias crimes across Pennsylvania. Acts of bigotry of any kind cannot be tolerated in our commonwealth or anywhere else in America and around the world.

Online: https://bit.ly/3jueN3l

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Suspend permits for Wyalusing LNG project

The Scranton Times-Tribune

Aug. 26

Pennsylvania’s participation in a federal lawsuit over the safety of liquefied natural gas transportation raises questions about the state Department of Environmental Protection’s permits for a major LNG project in Bradford County.

Work began, but has been halted on an $800 million LNG project in Wyalusing that has been approved by the DEP despite unresolved concerns about how the gas would be shipped from there to an LNG export terminal on the Delaware River in New Jersey. That terminal has not been fully approved by New Jersey regulators.

New Fortress Energy plans to ship 3.5 million gallons of liquefied natural gas per day to the export terminal by truck or rail, or both. That would require filling 15 40-foot tanker trucks per hour or three LNG rail tank cars.

The Trump administration, without conducting any safety studies, has approved a new rule allowing train transportation of LNG. It took effect Monday. The route from Wyalusing to Gibbstown, New Jersey, would be the first in the country to be authorized under the new rule.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are among 14 states and the District of Columbia to challenge the new rule in federal court.

“Liquefied natural gas has almost never been allowed on rail cars in bulk because it’s extremely dangerous. It’s explosive,” said state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Someone should have told the state DEP, which approved the plant even though its volatile cargo would be shipped through a dozen Pennsylvania counties, including Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna and Luzerne. The probable routes include densely populated towns along Routes 6 and 11.

The same attorneys general who sued objected to the new rule in January, but the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration approved it July 24, with specifications for the types of rail tankers that would have to be used.

Until safety studies are conducted on shipping LNG overland through local counties, the DEP should suspend the permits. It is irresponsible to allow residents of Northeast Pennsylvania to be guinea pigs in a transportation experiment.

Online: https://bit.ly/2G1FQ7B

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Sad about our fairs and the state Farm Show, but they are necessary cancellations in a health crisis

LNP

Aug. 24

“The Pennsylvania Farm Show, usually a crowded affair celebrating food, farming and family, will be a virtual event this January to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” LNP ' LancasterOnline’s Jeff Hawkes wrote Wednesday, following the official announcement by state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “There will be no in-person events or competitions at January’s show, which typically attracts as many as 400,000 visitors to the Harrisburg complex during the weeklong run and generates about $90 million in economic activity,” Hawkes noted.

2020 has been filled with necessary but demoralizing cancellations and online reimaginings of so many things we enjoy.

And now, with the news that the next Pennsylvania Farm Show will be “celebrated virtually,” it is sad to learn that the effects of the pandemic on the economy — and on our social lives — will extend into early 2021.

We are social beings. We love fairs, carnivals and festivals. We love sports, concerts, movies and theater. We love being together and celebrating our shared interests.

And that makes this all so very hard. Especially for those whose economic livelihoods depend on huge annual events such as the Farm Show. And for the many who work year-round to prepare for them.

The Elizabethtown Fair was supposed to kick off the start of Lancaster County’s fair season this week, LNP ' LancasterOnline’s Erin Negley noted. But health experts’ continuing concerns about the ability of the novel coronavirus to spread in crowds — along with the state’s prohibition on outdoor events of more than 250 persons — has led to the cancellation of the county’s beloved late-summer festivals.

“Not having a fair is a first for many communities, some of which organized fairs more than a century ago,” Negley wrote. “This year, we won’t have the homecoming.”

And it’s not just here. Across the river, the York State Fair, which usually draws more than a half-million people, was canceled for the first time since 1918 — also a pandemic year. Cancellation was the right thing to do for the health and safety of the community a century ago, and it’s the right thing in 2020.

Most fairs have their roots in celebrating agriculture and the summer-end harvest. We’ll miss livestock competitions, the food, the rides, the music, the laughter and smiles on the faces of children and neighbors.

All is not lost for this summer, though. Negley notes that some smaller community events are being held. The plans for them are necessarily modest, with a mixture of food trucks, street performers, livestock auctions and games. If you attend, please follow public health guidelines, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Online: https://bit.ly/32mgfxq

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