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Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

Thoughts & Views: Check your freedom to fly at the gate

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Much has been made of civilian authorities abusing their statutory powers – and responsibilities to the constituencies they serve – by creating chaos at public transportation hubs.

We have heard the allegations about Gov. Chris Christie and his political associates allegedly seeking to disrupt local traffic flows on approaches to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, allegedly to zing the borough mayor for not endorsing the governor for re-election.

And, more recently, there were charges made by the police chief Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is seeking to demote that the city’s chief executive had ordered him to have his officers make an excessive number of needless traffic stops on the approach to the Holland Tunnel, reportedly to irk the Port Authority whom the city is suing.

Assuming the charges in either or both instances are accurate, those pale in comparison to the reckless downing of the Malaysian jet over Ukraine and the killing of its 298 passengers and crew.

Regardless of who did the foul deed – whether it was the Ukrainian rebels themselves, the rebels using rockets from Russia, soldiers from Russia or Ukrainian military – the perverse attack – accident or not – is nothing short of a war crime against innocent people.

Of course, officials from Malaysia and the Netherlands – the countries whose citizens took the brunt of the tragedy – along with Europe and the U.S. – are calling for an investigation but since the troops at the crash site have made access tough to negotiate, who knows how close we’ll get to finding out what really happened.

Not that it matters.

Because Realpolitik speaks louder than human concerns: European countries don’t want to antagonize Russia because they’re worried about getting enough oil from Gazprom; Malaysia is still trying to recover from the unexplained disappearance of its other jet.

In a world consumed with commerce, power and national chest-beating, we will soon forget about this latest example of indifference to the sanctity of life.

We will not remember that among the innocents who perished aboard Malaysian Flight 17 was humanitarian Joep Lange, the executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and a former president of the International AIDS Society, and several of his colleagues.

Similarly, it will not cross our mental radar screens that the U.S. is walling off much of its southern border as a deterrent to the influx of illegal immigrants from Central America coming up through Mexico and that Republican leaders are demanding that parent-less children be sent back whence they came, no matter the dangers they face.

Or that the Talban and extremist Muslim leaders insist that females are to be forever yoked to their homes, and, indeed, if a 10-year-old girl has been raped, it is her parents’ duty to inflict an “honor killing” on her for bringing “disgrace” to her family.

The list of injustices – resulting from men in power controlling our capacity to fully experience our world and enjoy its resources in freedom – goes on, relentlessly. And, unless and until we have the courage to rise up against that power, we will continue to be confined – physically and mentally – to the space we’re now permitted to occupy.

– Ron Leir  

Thoughts & Views: The thin blue line

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When the news first broke Sunday morning that a Jersey City police officer had been killed in the line of duty, word was that he had been responding to an armed robbery at a Walgreens drugstore.

Later that day, at a press conference, matters were clarified. Yes, a robbery had been reported. But the “suspect” made no attempt to flee. He waited outside the store for police to respond to the 911 call. And when the first radio car pulled up, he put a bullet in Officer Melvin Santiago’s head.

This was the deliberate targeting of a cop. Just because he was a cop. This was cold-blooded murder.

The killer fired at another patrol car, but was taken down by police before he could wound, or slaughter, any other officers.

On Sunday, the Officer Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org) posted the following details:

“Police Officer Melvin Santiago was shot and killed at 4:09 a.m. when he and his partner responded to a robbery call at a 24-hour pharmacy on the corner of Communipaw Ave. and John F. Kennedy Blvd. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: We can all learn from the ‘write’ stuff

In its July 1 editions, The New York Times reported that, starting this month, the Associated Press would use computer automation to “report” about companies’ quarterly earnings.

The computer software company, furnished with data from a research source, will spew out stories “written with the tone, personality and variability of a human writer,” according to the company’s website, The Times noted.

So, we’ll get dry corporate cash reports delivered with a poet’s touch. Sounds intriguing. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Two bullets, 10 million dead

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There was a seismic change to the world on June 28. Didn’t notice anything?

That’s okay. The change occurred 100 years ago, and back then the majority of people didn’t initially notice much either.

However, what happened that day launched a chain of events that would irrevocably transform nations, society and culture in ways then inconceivable and, even now, astonishing.

On June 28, 1914, on the streets of Sarajevo, a 19-yearold Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

(That’s Franz in the photo.) Read more »

CORRECTION

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Photos in last week’s entertainment story on The Whiskey Café were not properly attributed. Louise Surace took the photos we used.

Thoughts & Views: 52 million without country to call their own

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Imagine a winter scenario in which New York Gov. Cuomo is persuaded that his neighbors are meddling with the intrastate bridges and tunnels and orders out the Empire State militia and National Guard to invade the Garden State.

The state government in Trenton quickly topples, Gov. Christie abandons Drumthwacket and the State Police provide him with a high speed escort to a top secret Morris County retreat – quicker than you can say, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Meanwhile, the Cuomo invaders don’t stop with taking over all transportation infrastructure – they begin occupying all state, county and local government offices, postal facilities, schools, businesses and forcing residents out of their homes, confiscating everything from private vehicles to farmlands, looting and burning as they go.

Hapless New Jersey defenders quickly disappear into the Pinelands and displaced civilians – grabbing only what they can easily carry – stream onto the local roads (Turnpike, Parkway, Rts. 3 and 280 all blocked by N.Y. militia) and head for Pennsylvania and Delaware in hope of finding refuge there.

Those states grudgingly permit the frozen, weary travelers entry but, with their economies already taxed to the limit, bureaucrats scramble to set up temporary lodgings in second-hand trailers and tents scrounged from FEMA. Food is trucked in – when the snow-packed roads are negotiable and not being strafed by New York drones – from scant emergency pantries.

Hard to imagine? Yes, indeed, but that’s the kind of life that millions of people – more than 50 million by one United Nations estimate – around the globe are facing as a result of being displaced from their native lands.

As reported by The Guardian on June 19, “The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the second world war, an exponential rise that is stretching host countries and aid organizations to the breaking point, according to figures released [by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees]” for 2013.

The Guardian quoted UNHCR head Antonio Guterres as saying, “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world.”

By the UNHCR’s calculations, the civil war in Syria bumped up the 2012 global count by 6 million alone. As reported by The Guardian, “By the end of last year, 2.5 million Syrians had fled across the country’s borders and 6.5 million were internally displaced – more than 40% of the population.”

Fighting in the Central African Republic and South Sudan accounted for further displacement, the international agency report said.

An average of 32,200 people had to leave their homes every day, according to the agency. That’s comparable to the communities of Garfield or Orange or Fair Lawn suddenly emptying out.

Of the estimated 51.2 million forced to leave their homes worldwide, the UNHCR classifies 16.7 million as “refugees,” of whom Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians and Somalis comprise about half the total and are being absorbed primarily by Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Nearly 1.2 million of the global total are listed as “asylum seekers,” the majority of whom are being hosted by Germany.

And 33.3 million of the total are “internally displaced people,” meaning they were forced out of their homes but stayed in their home countries.

Of those who end up leaving their homelands, Guterres says that many are preyed on by “increasingly sophisticated trafficking gangs” who use “rape, torture, sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, extortion and murder” to exploit them.

Needless to say, children – thousands unaccompanied by parents or relatives – are the most defenseless against such criminality.

The U.S., of course, continues to struggle with its own “hosting” of immigrants, many fleeing north from impoverished Central America or from criminal gangs in Mexico. Periodic calls for “immigration reform” measures were heard on Capitol Hill but the House and the Senate have been unable to agree on legislation.

And so runs the world away from one of its most pressing people issues.

– Ron Leir 

Thoughts & Views: Go ahead, make my day

So, one day I’m sitting at my desk at The Observer when there came this brief but loud noise from outside followed by a strange chemical odor wafting briefly through the open window.

I never did find out what had happened, but at the time, I commented, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

A co-worker laughed, and I said, “I also love that movie.” And she said, “What movie?”

Apparently she thought I was just being clever, and I realized that what we had here was a failure to communicate. Read more »

WE’VE GOT MAIL

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EXPECT ‘AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY’

To North Arlington High School graduates: 

I want to congratulate you on your graduation from high school. You have put in a lot of work to reach your goal and you should be proud of your achievements.

You are about to embark on an incredible journey filled with unforeseeable twists and turns. Some of you will travel far from North Arlington and take on challenges you never imagined you could. Some of you will stay close to home and become part of the fabric of your community. Some will go to college, or trade school; others are destined for the U.S. military. No one path is right for everyone so follow the path that suits you best.

Choosing the right path in life in not always easy.

Be true to your principles; never forget who you are or where you came from. You don’t know it now, but a big part of who you will become someday is already embedded deep inside of you.

I’m not going to tell you to go out and change the world, because most of you will do that in small, almost imperceptible ways that you will come to appreciate only decades from now.

Be honest and forthright. Try new things; test yourself. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay; you will learn more from your mistakes than from your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to work hard. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t listen to your critics.

Most of all, I implore you to be good citizens. America is at a very pivotal time in its history. We need people of good character to step forward and become doers in our communities, not takers. America has plenty of critics and naysayers. What we need are people willing to roll up their sleeves and make positive contributions to their town, their state and their country.

You are lucky to live in the greatest nation on earth – one that allows you to follow your dreams and set your own measure of success. But remember: America didn’t become great by accident. Many men and women worked very hard to give you the inheritance of political liberty and personal freedom that you now enjoy. Appreciate what this country has to offer and find a way to make it better. If you can do that, you will be a success.

Best wishes, 

Mayor Peter C. Massa
North Arlington 

Thoughts & Views: Before you take that overseas trip, read this

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With the summer vacation season upon us, those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford it will be booking flights to destinations around the globe.

So a reminder: Make sure your passport is up to date.

Should be pretty simple to check, you would think: If your passport hasn’t expired, stands to reason you should be good to go, right?

Nope.

Don’t get caught like a fool holding your luggage at the airline terminal and being told in no uncertain terms that even though your passport is in good standing, you can’t get on the plane because your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure.

That’s right, folks. So says the U.S. Department of State. Read more »

CORRECTION

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A story in last week’s issue of The Observer incorrectly reported that Ponte Romana Restaurant in Kearny was charged with having low-proof bottles. The actual ABC violation to which the licensee pleaded guilty was contaminated bottles.