Opinion

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As journalists, we share the frustrations of many residents in our communities who see the large number of empty storefronts — many left vacant for several years — while new developments seem to erupt out of the ground just a few feet away from derelict properties.

Imagine the grief felt by Huntington residents two years ago when Great Neck-based developer Villadom Corp. proposed construction of a 486,380-square-foot mall with retail and office space on the 50-acre property known as Elwood Orchard. Many residents feared overwhelming congestion on Route 25 and water quality issues. Meanwhile, empty buildings stood just to the east and west of the site.

Imagine the relief when the developer withdrew the application. Then think of the relief that Hauppauge residents felt last year when they saw a sign reading Relish restaurant, of Kings Park, was opening an additional location in the old Pizza Hut on Route 111. The blighted building had been vacant for decades.

Rows of vacant buildings spoil Port Jeff’s uptown vibe. The abandoned businesses along Lake Avenue in St. James and Main Street in Smithtown also point to serious problems. In Setauket, a former King Kullen still sits empty years after the chain closed those doors, and a decrepit building sits on the corner of Gnarled Hollow Road. Suffolk County was willing to buy the latter property with the Town of Brookhaven looking to maintain it as passive parkland. Some of these situations are examples of property owners holding out for more money. In which case, the only real victim is the community as a whole.

Elected officials need to ensure that these empty storefronts are filled to create vibrant shopping areas. It’s an important, even essential step to take to create stronger, cleaner and healthier communities. It also protects groundwater and can minimize roadway congestion.

Preserve that open space and fill the locations that are already set up for commerce first.

Local officials may be limited in how much they can dictate to developers but there are options. Take for example Decatur, Illinois, where the city recently hired a retail consultant to fill the vacant storefronts. Consultants or even town employees can be tasked in recruiting companies interested in entering the market. Businesses can be sold on the benefits of reconfiguration and renovation, rather than new construction.

Business owners can take responsibility, too, to maintain the quality of life in their neighborhoods where they do business. Recently, former Yankees star baseball player Mariano Rivera received an OK on a zoning change from the Town of Brookhaven to create a car dealership in Port Jefferson Station in an already developed space. While he plans to create one new additional building on site, he will expand on an existing one. The local civic and town board complimented him on his willingness to work with the local community. 

Many big businesses may come into an area focused on their branding, concerned with how their building needs to look, and insist on building from scratch in what they feel is an ideal location. We encourage elected officials to welcome businesses into structures that already exist. Quality of life should be considered first and foremost in our communities.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate was not the cause of Blue Monday this week. An idea first introduced to the world in a press release in 2005, Blue Monday was named the most depressing day of the year. Typically, the third Monday of January, but it can be the second or the fourth, Blue Monday is the confluence of several downers. We can certainly guess what they are.

For starters, there is the darkness and the weather. We are in the first full month after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That, combined with the traditionally coldest month, makes for a lot of storms, gloom and shut-ins. Even if we are fortunate, as we have been so far this year — there haven’t been so many storms — we know they are coming.

Then there are the holiday bills. This is when credit charges begin arriving, along with their urgency to be paid. We had a wonderful time, for the most part, during the celebratory days of December. Time to pay the piper.

Right around now is also when our New Year’s resolutions begin to fade. Reality sets in with an awareness of how truly hard it is to break bad habits. Easier to slip back into the old ways, especially as a treat during the awful weather.

As we look ahead into the new year, there are no big holidays to anticipate — nothing larger than St. Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday after all. And then there are the coming taxes. Property tax deadline has just passed, emptying our bank accounts but April 15 will be coming up faster than our savings might grow. Not all of us get refunds — quite the contrary.

So here are five things we can do to offset the alleged challenges of the season. They are proposed by a Buddhist monk in his book, “Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection,” and they speak to self-care. Haemin Sunim, who has taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, according to a recent article in The New York Times, goes beyond the obvious advice of exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.

First, start by taking a deep breath. As we think about our breathing, it becomes deeper, giving us a sense of calm no matter what is happening around us.

Next comes acceptance “of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections.” When we struggle to overcome difficult emotions, the struggle intensifies. But if we start by accepting those emotions, allowing them to be there, the mind quiets.

Writing is a third suggestion from the monk. This one, of course, speaks to me. Write down what is troubling or what we need to do, then leave the load on paper and get a good sleep. The list will be there and help to direct our actions in the morning. I have found this therapeutic when I wake up in the middle of the night herding a multitude of thoughts. I keep a pen and pad on the bedside table and I offload the burdens. In the morning, if I can read my writing, I can usually figure out how to proceed.

Talking is also important. How do I know what I think until I have heard what I’ve said? Somehow talking out a situation makes it clearer. There has to be a totally nonjudgmental and trustworthy friend who will listen, of course.

Last on the top 5 is walking: “When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you can pay attention to nature — a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body will be released,” the monk said.

Even if we have no issues at the moment, we certainly feel better after taking a walk.

Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach on a major league staff in baseball history.

By Daniel Dunaief

There may be no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks famously said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but there is, thanks to San Francisco Giants and Alyssa Nakken, now a woman in baseball.

Last week, for the first time in the 150-year history of the game, a woman joined the ranks of the coaches at Major League level.

The hiring of Nakken, 29, follows the addition of women in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

While it may seem past time that America’s pastime caught up with the times, members of the Long Island athletic and softball communities welcomed the news.

“I hope that it becomes more of the norm rather than the exception,” said Shawn Heilbron, athletic director at Stony Brook University.

For Megan Bryant, who has been the head softball coach at Stony Brook since 2001 and has collected more than 870 career wins, Nakken’s new job creates a path that others can follow.

“For the Giants and Major League Baseball and women in sports careers, that’s a big deal and is a step forward,” Bryant said. “It will open other doors for other women.”

Bryant said teams can and should recognize the wealth of coaching talent among men and women.

“If you’re a great coach, it shouldn’t matter the gender of the athletes you’re coaching,” Bryant said. 

Lori Perez, who was an assistant softball coach at Sacramento State University when Nakken played and is now head coach, said the news gave her “goose bumps.”

The hardworking Nakken, a two-time captain at Sacramento State, once asked her coaches to stop a low-energy practice so the team could refocus and flush their negative energy, Perez said.

Nakken’s parents had “high expectations for her but, even better, she had high expectations for herself,” which included doing well academically and helping out in summer camps, Perez said.

Patrick Smith, athletic director at Smithtown school district, believes these first few female hires in men’s sports are a part of a leading edge of a new trend.

“We will see more and more [women joining professional sports teams] as time goes on,” Smith said. In Smithtown, women constitute greater than half of all the athletes at the high school level.

Among the six senior women on Stony Brook’s softball team, three members are considering a career in sports after they graduate, Bryant said.

While the Women’s College World Series softball games have drawn considerable fan attention, attendance at women’s college and professional sporting events typically lags that of men.

The Long Island community can provide their daughters with a chance to observe and learn from role models at the college and professional levels by attending and supporting local teams.

“It’s frustrating that the women’s games aren’t drawing close to what the men’s teams are,” said Heilbron. The Stony Brook women’s basketball team, which includes standout junior India Pagan among other talented players, is currently 18-1. This is the best start in program history.

“I hope people will come” support the team, Heilbron said. “If you come, we believe you’ll come back.”

As for women in high profile roles, Bryant, who is looking forward to the addition of six new players to her softball squad this year, believes each step is important on a longer journey toward equal opportunity.

“Whether it’s in sports, science or politics, we’re making strides,” Bryant said. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Perez, who has two children, is thrilled that “women can dream of things they couldn’t dream of before,” thanks to Nakken and other female trailblazers inside and outside of the sports world.

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Ethical behavior has always been required and expected of government officials. In the pages of our newspapers, we are reporting on corruption cases, conflicts of interest and varying degrees of unfair, immoral and in some cases illegal practices in government — all levels of government. 

As one elected official recently stated, there’s a lot of this going on. You see it on federal, state and local levels of both major political parties and we need to eliminate that. 

An administrator in the Village of Northport recently pleaded guilty to using village funds as his “personal piggy bank,” according to Tim Sini (D), Suffolk County district attorney. Former county DA, Tom Spota (D), and one of his top aides were convicted of obstruction of justice and witness tampering. 

We are learning that the New York State Public Service Commission lacks oversight of the Long Island Power Authority, which can easily lead to abuse. Lawmakers are now looking to address that omission. We are not saying LIPA is corrupt, but if fraud is detected through agency audits, officials say they currently can’t take action. And with impeachment proceedings moving forward in the White House, there’s no shortage of examples of issues that deserve our attention. 

What exactly is corruption? It’s when elected officials steer contracts or use public policies and practices for their own personal benefit rather than the public good. When a government agency steers contracts to its family members, clients and business partners or to family members affiliated with these groups, it’s a red flag.

Corruption can, and often does, lead to fraud, wasteful spending and higher operational costs for government that you ultimately pay for personally. The costs are hard to quantify, but said to be significant. The state comptrollers office reports that over 215 arrests have been made and over $60 million recovered. 

Citizens need to sit up and pay close attention. Attend meetings, file Freedom of Information Act requests, look at government contracts, look at campaign contribution filings, demand transparency and ask for town hall-style meetings from your elected officials. If they’re not responsive, elect new officials. 

Among the best remedies known to prevent and beat corrupt practices is keeping citizens informed and engaged.

It may be tempting to look the other way and give officials a pass. It’s certainly easier. But turning a blind eye on corruption only breeds malfeasance. It’s about the worst response there is. Corruption ultimately corrodes the fabric of society and undermines people’s trust in their political systems and leaders. According to Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, it can cost people freedom, health, money and sometimes even their lives. 

As governments struggle with budget deficits and aim to address urgent issues, the prudent thing to do is hold government officials accountable. We can’t fall asleep at the wheel. We the people need to make a point to stay engaged and informed in the new year and demand good government on all levels. 

State officials encourage the public to fight fraud and abuse. To report suspected abuse, call the comptrollers office at 1-888-672-4555 or email investigations@osc.ny.

'Come From Away' on tour

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know those thought bubbles artists draw in cartoons, where the reader can see what each character is thinking even as the person might be saying something like, “Bless your heart”?

I tried to imagine possessing that real-life talent when I recently attended the show, “Come from Away.”

The musical, which debuted close to seven years ago, offers a retelling of the story of people diverted on their planes on 9/11 to the small town of Gander on the island of Newfoundland in Canada.

The local folks, with their indigenous
accents, offer support for the sudden influx of thousands of people from all over the world who are stuck in a place where they can’t get to their clothes, pets or toothbrushes.

The world changed dramatically on that day, as people on those redirected planes gained an almost immediate perspective on the inconvenience of their experience compared to the tragedy other families endured.

The people from Gander were incredibly hospitable and heroic, stepping outside their own needs to welcome and support the collection of people trapped with them for an indeterminate period of time.

While I don’t want to spoil the story — and please stop reading if you’d like to experience the show without any specific expectations — the musical also addressed one of the crueler elements that arose in the aftermath of that awful day: Some Americans developed a fear of Muslims.

One of the Muslim men stuck in Gander immediately drew suspicion from his fellow passengers. What, they wanted to know, was he doing and was he a threat to them?

In the days, weeks and months that followed those despicable attacks, many Americans developed an unfounded fear of all Muslims, just as people became distrustful of Japanese-Americans after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of the reasons I wished I had a thought bubble as I watched the show was to see and appreciate what the other members of the audience recalled in their own lives.

Indeed, for me, the toughest part of the beginning of the show was immersing myself in the story. While I recognized that I was hearing about the experiences of people in a faraway place, I kept recalling the day when my then 3-month-old daughter seemed to sense our panic, fear and sadness, refusing to sleep or even allow us to put her down.

I also thought about the friends and professional contacts who got up, went to work and never returned to their families that day.

And now, several days after attending the show, I see that President Donald Trump (R) has decided to attack two of his favorite Democratic targets by retweeting images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York as Muslims, standing in front of an Iranian flag.

The suggestion, perhaps, is that they must be terrorists or be standing with the cruel regime in Iran if they don’t immediately support a president whose explanation for his own recent actions in Iran seems to change by the day.

Moving away from his world view, however, I feel as if we’re still fighting an irrational battle where one group — Muslims — is considered dangerous to “our way of life.” Do we really believe that any one religion could be eager to destroy us? Can we casually allow anti-Muslim fears to return?

Surely, we must have learned something in the last 18 years? The enemy doesn’t wear one set of clothing or practice one religion. We don’t have to wait for tragedy or for extraordinary circumstances to rise to the moment, the way the residents of Gander did.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thank heavens for Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Because of our fascination with the British royal family, despite having cast them off more than two centuries ago, they pushed out newscasts of assassinated terrorists and a tragically downed civilian airplane from the top spot with their own declaration of independence. As we watched and listened, they said they wanted to “carve out a progressive new role” for themselves while remaining in the royal family but would step back from being senior members “and work to become financially independent.” They also explained that they would spend part of the year living in North America.

Wow! Sounds like trying to be a little bit pregnant.

Why are we so interested in this? Could it be that over the 20th century, the royals have become human? Perhaps they might be viewed as a proxy family for us all. Who doesn’t have a ne’er-do-well uncle in their midst? Or trouble with an in-law? And certainly surprise at a rebellious child who isn’t following in the family footsteps?

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The first to go rogue was Edward VIII, who famously gave up his throne for “the woman I love”: Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée from Baltimore. The rules were still strict then. To withdraw was to leave, and that was that. Then came Princess Margaret, whose love for a married commoner, Peter Townsend, was not permitted to proceed, but she retaliated by dancing out of the base paths the rest of her life.

Despite Queen Elizabeth II’s stalwart traditional life, her children did not follow suit, especially Charles, Prince of Wales, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. After Charles’ wife, Princess Diana, opened a huge window into the workings of the royal machinery and then tragically died, Charles was able to properly unite with Camilla Parker Bowles and life seemed to quiet down at the palace. 

Then along came the next generation, and rules had relaxed so far that Kate Middleton — whose parents were merely business owners — had met Prince William as students at St. Andrews University in Scotland. She was accepted and ultimately welcomed into the Windsor dynasty with a splendid wedding. Rules and tradition relaxed so far further that Harry was allowed to marry previously wed, biracial American actress Meghan Markle.

And now this. It is a wonder that the queen, at age 93, is still upright. She must surely be uptight. The House of Windsor has gone, in her one lifetime thus far, from an image of rigid control to having its laundry washed in public.

Conversations are going like this. Some are scolding the royal couple for asserting — or at least trying to assert their freedom and appearing to defy the queen. Others are commenting on alleged racism in Britain, as evidenced by racist treatment Meghan has received at the hands of the British press and other members of the upper echelons. Apparently a BBC host “compared the couple’s newborn baby [Archie] to a chimpanzee,” according to an article in The New York Times this past Sunday. Still others would have liked to see the couple work from inside the family and its institutions to improve race relations in Britain much the same way the royal family inspired the courage of the British people during World War II.

For my part, I am frankly delighted to hear and read about something other than “the week the world stood still,” as we waited for Iran’s reaction to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and the extreme partisan reaction that followed. And trying to follow the demonstrations in the streets by irate masses across the globe need constantly updated scorecards. It is a positive relief to follow the trials and tribulations of the royal family, however brief the respite. This is not to say I am unsympathetic to parts of their saga. In fact, we all deal with family uprisings and can identify in such matters even as we are made proud by other actions family members take.

Or maybe I am just addicted from having watched too much “Downton Abbey.” 

The Barnes Foundation

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

During the recent holiday break, we took advantage of the free time to visit two delightful museums in Philadelphia: The Barnes Foundation and the Museum of the American Revolution. The Barnes is home of a huge collection of Impressionist paintings, among many other treasures, and the Museum of the American Revolution, not quite 2 years old, is dedicated to telling the story of our evolution from the historic center of America’s founding.

The Barnes started as the remarkable personal collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Born in Philadelphia in 1872 into a working class family, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school and went off to Germany to study chemistry. From his work there, he made his fortune by co-inventing a silver nitrate antiseptic, called Argyrol, with a German colleague Hermann Hille. 

Buying out Hille, he ran the A.C. Barnes Company from 1908-29 and in the process started to collect art. Ironically he didn’t much care for the Impressionists until his high school friend and artist, William Glackens, persuaded him otherwise. He sent Glackens off to Paris to buy some paintings, and when the artist returned with 33, Barnes became serious about collecting art and took over the purchasing himself, housing the works at his estate.

Barnes started the Barnes Foundation in 1922, a nonprofit cultural and educational institution to “promote the advancement of education and appreciation of fine arts and horticulture.” The foundation oversees the art, and since 2012 the collection has been located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a splendid compound that honors both the founder and the masters whose works lie within its walls and in its gardens. There is even a parking lot on the premises that makes a visit so much easier.

The Barnes boasts the world’s single largest collection of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, with 181, and ditto for those by Paul Cézanne with 69. There are also 59 by Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, as well as art by Modigliani, van Gogh, Seurat and Barnes’ friend, Glackens. Also in the dazzling museum are paintings by Old Masters El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Veronese. There are sculptures, masks, tools, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, manuscripts and one of the most outstanding collections of wrought iron, some 887 pieces, among so many other multicultural offerings.

A major exhibition, which sadly will end there this Sunday, Jan. 12, is 30 Americans. Featuring works of many of the most important African American artists of the past four decades, according to the museum’s curator, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw — herself a famous African American professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a top administrator at the Smithsonian — this collection “explores issues of personal and cultural identity against a backdrop of pervasive stereotyping — of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.” 

The artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and Barkley Hendricks along with 24 others, and some of the paintings are riveting. This is the 10th anniversary of 30 Americans and the first in the Northeast since 2011 when it was in Washington, D.C. Chatting with other visitors, we learned that many came from some distance to catch up with this exhibit of modern artists and their distinct perspectives.

Did I mention that there is also a wonderful restaurant inside the Barnes?

This doesn’t leave me much space to tell you about the Museum of the American Revolution, more the pity, which is also handsomely housed in central Philadelphia. 

Of particular interest is their first international loan exhibition, Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier, which will remain in place until March 17. By focusing on Richard St. George, born in County Galway to Protestant landed gentry and who became a soldier, artist, writer and extensive landowner, the exhibit tells us much about the American Revolution of 1776, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 — and life in the British army, which St. George joined. There are paintings, many sketches that St. George made himself, artifacts and weaponry in a comprehensive display of history from that era.

By the way, it is really easy to get to Philadelphia from here on Long Island with only a stopover in Penn Station if one takes the trains. If only for these two gracious institutions, it is well worth the trip.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Amid the delightful sensory experiences of a recent warm-weather vacation, my wife and I enjoyed an unexpected gift: The words other people chose to share on their T-shirts.

The messages weren’t limited to any one age group, as the young and old took time to find phrases they shared with strangers who were enjoying time in warmer weather.

A boy, aged about 12, stood in a line with a white T-shirt with a message in all-capital letters: “Help I’m on a family vacay.” To round out the picture, he had a dour and distracted look as he was clearly waiting for other members of his family to catch up to him in line.

Another boy about the same age strutted around with a colorful shirt that suggested: “You need me on your team.” In a culture where sports plays such a prominent role in the identity of children and parents who drive children they imagine might one day be making six, seven, eight or nine figure salaries on fields all over the country, that shirt was consistent with the belief in the American Sports Dream.

Numerous adults and young adults offered a connection to their favorite sports teams. For one football fan, though, merely sharing the Philadelphia Eagles emblem was insufficient. Near his beloved Eagles logo, he urged his team to “Beat Dallas.” This year, that was especially fitting as the Eagles overtook the Cowboys in the last few weeks of the year to win the NFC East title.

I’m not sure if this coupling was deliberate, but a woman’s T-shirt suggested that readers “Follow your soul,” while her companion wore a Nashville Predators shirt, indicating, at least in the moment, that her friend’s soul may track the hockey team from Tennessee.

A young girl, walking next to her father, wore a shirt that suggested that she’d “Rather Be a Mermaid.” Given how desperately Ariel, the Little Mermaid of Disney fame, sang about wanting to escape the ocean, I couldn’t help thinking about the line from the song “Under the Sea,” where the crab Sebastian admonishes her — King Triton’s youngest daughter — that “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”

An older African-American couple borrowed from the movies as the man wore a shirt that suggested he was “Straight Outta Money.” The message probably resonated for others who may have blown through some of their travel and entertainment budget for time in a warm climate.

Advertising a New England town coupled with a local accent, a woman sported a message that read, “Baa Ha Ba, Maine,” offering a connection to the Bar Harbor tourist destination along the coast of Maine that is a short drive to Acadia National Park.

A young boy urged people on his T- shirt to “Be the Change,” an expression that an actor or actress might borrow to spread a specific message after winning a coveted award for performing their craft.

Offering a take on the fine art of putting off responsibilities and chores, a young man wore a shirt that said, “I don’t procrastinate. I delegate to my future self.” After reading so many variations of the theme that the procrastinators club would be meeting some time next week, I enjoyed a refreshing take on the process of setting something aside for a later time.

An older man with white hair and a thick white mustache and beard brought along two noteworthy T-shirts: The first celebrated his 80 years, as part of a beach tour, and the second promised that “Beneath this beard is a handsome man.”

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People are scared.

You hear it walking down the aisle in the supermarket. You hear it in chatting with co-workers. You hear it with your relatives at the dinner table or over the phone. With the threat of war looming, everybody everywhere wants to know: Will we be safe? What’s going to happen next?

After President Donald Trump (R) ordered the assassination of the Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani last Friday, Jan. 3, the world has been reeling in a vortex of panic and debilitating fear. Iran has said there will be retaliation, and the president has said he will respond to the response.

That rhetoric has escalated, with Iran canceling all hopes of a nuclear deal and Iraq moving to remove all U.S. troops from its country. Meanwhile, Trump has said he would even consider bombing cultural sites in Iran as a response — something the International Criminal Court has called a war crime in the past. 

As Iran held a funeral for the slain general, with many thousands of mourners in the streets shouting “death to America,” the Pentagon has asked amphibious forces to be ready to support ground-based operations in that country.

War, huh, what is it good for?

The nation’s armed forces stand ready and, for what seems like only an eye blink from the last war, young men and women may yet again be asked to serve overseas.

One of our reporters encountered a young recent high school graduate at the checkout register in a local grocery store who recently signed up to serve in the military. What was his opinion of the situation? He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” After a pause, he added, “We do what we have to do.”

In June of last year, CBS TV’s “60 Minutes” ran an interview by Lesley Stahl with 99-year-old Ben Ferencz, the last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials. He was also at the head of establishing the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Ferencz fought in World War II and had seen some of the bloodiest battles of the Western Front, including the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. During the interview with “60 Minutes,” he gave a very specific opinion on war.

“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people,” he said. “All wars, and all decent people.”

Whatever your opinion, whether Suleimani had to die to protect American lives, or whether the U.S. has committed itself pointlessly to another potential war in the Middle East, the common feeling is anxiety. 

We at TBR News Media feel the best way to live in such times is to ultimately stay informed. We ask people not to jump to conclusions. Take the time read the news and watch TV with a critical eye. Avoid posting rumors, propaganda or unverified info to Facebook and other social media sites. 

Perhaps something worse than being uninformed is misinformed, or to be purposefully led astray. Rely on facts that are verifiable to its original source. Consider the opinions of people with first-hand accounts, or named reliable sources with expertise. Some people like using fact-checking sites such as Snopes.com. We also suggest reading Glenn Kessler’s fact-checking blog in the Washington Post, both of whom are largely known for being nonpartisan.

Please, to all our readers, stay informed, stay aware and stay safe.

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There’s something brilliant about a letter. In fact, one of the best ways to test one’s writing skill is in the art of correspondence. Try reading “A Life in Letters” by Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, to see the unique power of the written word. 

Each and every one of our readers letters has power and each and every word counts. Just like news stories, your letters might be capable of prompting change, or inspiring another individual, typically in 400 words or less.

With that power, every letter writer also has a responsibility to readers, and we at TBR News Media would like to clarify just what is at stake when you send in a letter to us. 

As journalists, we are the community’s closest connection between people and government, covering news and events that impact people’s lives on the local level. We especially welcome letters that touch on recent articles, even if it’s something as seemingly benign as roadwork near your house or a neighbor down the road setting off fireworks well past July 4. 

We edit for A.P. style, which is the standard in most U.S.-based news publications. If you were wondering why we only use a person’s last name after the first reference, for instance, that is why. It helps maintain coherence over the many thousands of words contained in each and every issue.

But we also edit for length, libel and good taste. These last three items that have especially been a bone of contention for some of our writers. Lately, many of our letters relate to national issues and the policies of President Donald Trump (R) and include incessant squabbling between the two major political parties. We would never alter your opinion, but we do have an obligation to make sure the facts you cite conform with the truth.

We ask that our writers provide sources or backup information with letters, so we can fact-check the information. 

We’ve received letters using derogatory nicknames for Trump, former President Barack Obama (D) and other legislators and political figures. We have done our best to edit out this potentially defamatory language. Some writers might disagree with this. But, we have also received letters berating other letter writers, and we have looked to soften that language to invite more civil discourse. 

Our view is the “Letters to the Editor” page serves as a form of public debate. Its purpose is to argue the issues, not personally attack an individual. Yes, please send us letters on what you think about the issues of the day, but when letters cross the line, they cheapen or even invalidate their arguments to knock at a supposed rival, or to drag people who live close to us through the mud.

We make a conscience effort to fairly represent opposing views to avoid discrimination. In fact, we find it most interesting and useful when we include letters from people on multiple sides of an issue. 

The majority of letters we get today concern the national discourse, and are essentially a mirrored reflection of the tirades and proceedings we see from people who are supposed to represent the best of us, the majority of us. 

Let’s raise the bar.

Instead of parroting the rhetoric of politicians and pundits, who regularly resort to insults, rely instead on the laws of logic and critical thinking. Analyzing arguments in the free marketplace of ideas is one hell of a responsibility. We the people hope we all take that responsibility seriously. Since accountability is the basis of democracy, let’s give it the gravity it deserves.