It is no surprise, then, that the region’s legislative delegation has come out swinging in response to news that state officials plan to close both the State Correctional Institute at Retreat and the White Haven State Center.

And while our state senators and representatives have a respectable history of working together across party lines to serve the region’s best interests, their bipartisan show of solidarity on this issue speaks volumes, especially for Democrats vociferously challenging a governor of their own party.

Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, was especially strong in his criticism of the administration.

“These decisions are easy to make from behind a desk in Harrisburg when you don’t have to look those affected in the eyes or listen to their concerns,” Mullery said Wednesday.



Gov. Tom Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel “need to visit Newport Township to see those whose lives they are disrupting and to hear, first-hand, the impact of this proposed decision,” Mullery said of SCI-Retreat’s proposed closure.

We understand that civil servants likely performed the analysis and made the recommendations now under consideration. We also understand that the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services have two separate budgets and two separate missions.

But in state government there is one person above all who should be considering how the separate actions of different departments affect taxpayers and communities, and that is the governor.

In this situation, Gov. Wolf is the person who holds not just the greatest power, but the greatest obligation to assess the overall impact of actions taken across the spectrum of state agencies.

It is Gov. Wolf who should be looking at these two proposed closures and asking whether such a one-two punch poses an undue burden for the people and economy of a single region.

As State Sen. Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, put it: “If both White Haven Center and SCI-retreat close, it will mean a loss of 840 total jobs and a direct economic impact loss of 105 million. This constitutes a significant impact on the families connected to both facilities and on the region.”

In the cold, hard language of cost-benefit analysis, will the savings associated with closing these two facilities outweigh the impact on the employees, families and communities here?

We would like to hear it from the man at the top, not from low-level functionaries sent to repeat talking points at public meetings, as we saw during a meeting at White Haven on Wednesday.

Gov. Wolf has visited the Times Leader and met with our editorial board. Our reporters have met him many times at events. We’ve always known him to be an affable, approachable and articulate spokesman for his policies.

It’s easy to be affable and approachable when running for re-election or announcing big new initiatives. So it was when Wolf and other members of the administration chose Wilkes-Barre in January as the place to unveil his “Restore Pennsylvania” initiative, which would rebuild the state’s infrastructure with funds generated by a yet-to-be enacted severance tax on the natural gas industry. It is a program this paper has supported.

If our region is important enough to serve as a backdrop for debuting a project like that, we think Gov. Wolf should come here now to explain personally why Luzerne County deserves to bear the brunt of losing two major employers in order to help balance the state’s budget.

That doesn’t mean we will like or agree with the answers — and believe us, this paper and lawmakers will say so — but we ask Gov. Wolf to please have the courtesy of defending these proposals to the community in person.

This hardworking region, which has fought back against so many economic challenges over the years, deserves that much.

In our fast-paced world, driven by technology, it is no wonder that the quiet simplicity of the Amish lifestyle continues to fascinate. Away from the complexity of the modern world, their culture is driven by a Christian belief in mutual aid.

As a community, the Amish are committed to helping each other – which is very evident when it is time for a “barn raising.” Good will for one’s neighbor translates into free labor and hard work – the combination of which results in a structure that supports the needs of their largely agricultural community.

While Northeastern Pennsylvania isn’t home to many Amish, their principles of goodwill, community and hard work are deeply rooted in our region’s own people, who also come together in times of need.

At 34 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the birth of her third child. “I was breastfeeding and I knew something wasn’t right.” Her family, friends and the community came together to support her in her recovery. Two years later, through a grass-roots effort, the first Paint Pittston Pink fundraiser was born. Barb and her team of volunteers raised and donated $30,000 to breast cancer research that year.

After six years, PPP hit its goal of $100,000 this past weekend, bringing the total donation to nearly half a million dollars.

“Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen,” says Barb. “We try and make it a fun event – everything is upbeat. Our committee of 20 volunteers has done such a great job. We have only had a few corporate sponsors so far. Most of our donations come from hard-working families, like ours, who give $5, $10 or pay $20 to run in our race and all the money goes to breast cancer research. The men who participated in the Gentleman’s Dash helped push the fundraiser over the top this year – bringing in over $80,000 themselves.”

According to statistics from the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, the rates of female breast cancer in our region are 5 percent lower than the national average – which is good. However, it is still the most common cancer in women. A small percentage of men are also at risk for breast cancer, but their highest risk lies in prostate, lung and colon cancers.

Karen Ryczak, the Cancer Institute’s surveillance coordinator, recommends evidence based screenings and taking steps to reduce cancer risk. “A relationship with a primary care physician is critical to help determine when an individual should be screened for a particular type of cancer. A healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not using tobacco products, and keeping up to date with screenings can lower the risk of cancer in most individuals.”

Barb and her husband, both Pittston natives, returned to the region from Chicago when her father passed away several years ago. “I am so incredibly grateful to be living here. They say we are “The Valley with a Heart” – and we are. I don’t know if we would have received such an outpouring of support if we were living in a big city. In such a tight community like ours, people come together in times of need – it really has been amazing.”

Paint Pittston Pink is one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s own version of a “barn raising.” In some ways, we are a simple people too – hard workers, with heart, empathy and resilience. We lock arms, when necessary, to face the enemy. In this case, it is cancer.

Thank you to Barb, the PPP team, and the residents of NEPA who supported this cause any many others like it. You are making a tangible difference. We are strong. Together we are stronger. And together we are making it happen.

Susan Magnotta is Director of Community Outreach at The Institute. Her column appears every other Monday.

Finally, one GOP senator had the guts to tweet the obvious: “The President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine’s president and appeal to Beijing are the acts of an autocrat who disdains the law and twists foreign policy to serve his own vendettas. To hell with our once-proud image as a country where leaders are subject to the rule of law.

Because let’s get this clear. According to U.S. election law, it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”

Consider what we already know. Despite the claims of the president and his minions — trumpeted in dishonest TV ads — Trump’s squeeze on Ukraine has nothing to do with “corruption.”

In the transcript of his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the word corruption is never even mentioned. Instead, the president immediately presses Zelenskiy to investigate a crazy, debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked into Democratic emails in 2016 and framed Russia. Then Trump squeezes Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Add to this the fact that Rudy Giuliani and Trump have praised two very corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors who refused to investigate the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. To the contrary, Joe Biden, along with the Europeans and the International Monetary Fund, pushed for the firing of one of those corrupt prosecutors.

In other words, the truth is exactly the opposite of Trump’s claims. The U.S. president shook down a Ukrainian leader who desperately needed the defensive weapons Trump was withholding — and is still squeezing Zelenskiy to investigate Biden.

“Trump put dramatic pressure on Zelenskiy,” says Daria Kaleniuk, a leading anticorruption activist in Kiev. “He fired the U.S. ambassador who was helping us and asked our president to interfere in the Prosecutor General’s office. But law enforcement needs to be independent of political interference if we want to guarantee rule of law.”

Of course, the Trump propaganda machine keeps churning out the word corruption. But if you doubt Trump shook down Zelensky, just read the transcript of their phone call, along with texts from U.S. diplomats who make clear their dismay about a likely quid pro quo.

Veteran diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, texted plaintively to a senior colleague, “Are we now saying that security assistance and (a White House meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy) are conditioned on investigations?” Instead of just saying no, the colleague wrote, “Call me,” taking the conversation private. More on this will inevitably emerge.

And then there is Trump’s public appeal to China to “start an investigation into the Bidens.” Again, this has nothing to do with corruption.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney also tweeted, correctly.

Trump knows full well this echoes his appeal to Russia during the 2016 campaign to “find” Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. On or around the same day as the Trump appeal, Russian hackers started releasing purloined texts from Democratic servers.

Trump cares not. He is willing to request that Beijing — our main strategic rival — do him a favor by digging up dirt on Biden. We already know Trump told Xi Jinping he’d stay silent on Hong Kong while trade talks continued. So what would Trump pay if Beijing complied?

Yet Trump’s twisting of U.S. foreign policy in service of his vendettas doesn’t stop there. He has asked the leaders of Australia, Britain, and Italy to investigate whether their own intelligence services engaged in a plot against the Trump campaign in 2016 by contributing to the Mueller report.

As the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “The idea that Australia was somehow part of a conspiracy to help Mrs Clinton in 2016 is nuts.” But Trump’s nuttiness may make allied intelligence services less likely to cooperate in the future.

Meantime, when I speak with pro-democracy activists from Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere, they despair at watching Trump besmirch America’s image.

“Putin wants to show the world that officials everywhere are corrupted, and that all the world runs like Russia,” the courageous, and well-known, Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats told me. “Trump has helped Putin’s argument that the United States is no different from Russia.”

The real risk is that a large number of Americans may not care. A 2018 study coauthored by Stanford University’sLarry Diamond found that three in 10 Americans would prefer a more authoritarian form of government in the United States.

Romney has broken the ice, and made clear he opposes Trump’s effort to ignore the rule of law. Will anyone else break the silence of the GOP lambs?

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at: Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or by email at trubin@phillynews.com.

WILKES-BARRE — It was announced Friday that Pennsylvania has recorded its first death attributed to “vaping.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed the death and multiple cases attributed to lung injuries associated with vaping in Pennsylvania.

This issue has long puzzled me. And I come from a home of two loving parents who, for many years of their lives, smoked cigarettes. I never have. Never even was I curious about it. It just never appealed to me in any way.

So when this new e-cigarette craze surfaced in 2014, I became intrigued. I thought maybe this would be a way to offer smokers a healthy option and, more importantly, a way to wean themselves off of tobacco products and a healthier life.

In May 2014 the Times Leader assigned me to write a story about electronic cigarettes that had lit up the local scene, igniting a discussion around the country as to their popularity and safety.

Ted Cross, who was Wilkes-Barre’s director of health at the time, had researched the non-tobacco smoking industry and found pros and cons about the e-cigarettes and the lack of knowledge of the phenomena.

“We’ve really seen an increase in the use of e-cigarettes in our region,” Kross said. “A lot of experts have been crying out for some regulations and guidelines for the sale and consumption of these products.”

So we asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for its opinion on electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol and flavorings like fruit or chocolate.

• Potentially harmful constituents also have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.

• E-cigarettes that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes were recently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but in most states there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

• Use of e-cigarettes has increased among U.S. adult current and former smokers in recent years; however, the extent of use among youths is uncertain.

In 2014, Kross said there were many concerns with e-cigarettes: the nicotine levels in the “juice” used to generate the smoke; the other ingredients used in the flavored juices; the effects on the smoker and second-hand smoke generated; the tendency for users to “progress” to tobacco or other smoking products; the lack of warning labels and/or childproof caps on the juices.

“We need safety measures taken as soon as possible,” Kross said. “The problem is that the research has not caught up to the usage.”

In the 2014 TL story, Brian King, senior scientific adviser to the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said there was still not much research on the public impact of e-cigarettes.

“We’re not sure if they are a promise or a peril,” King said in 2014. “There are a lot of issues to consider — do they delay smokers from quitting tobacco, could use of e-cigarettes lead to relapse among former smokers, do they encourage young people and non-smokers to start smoking?”

King said — remember this was in 2014 — that some studies had found a host of potentially hazardous toxins and various other ingredients, such as metals, in e-cigarette products.

“There is also concern over the exposure to e-cigarette aerosol products,” King said. “Whatever is in them, when exhaled also exposes bystanders. Anything inside the cartridge could be cause for concern. Second-hand exposure is a legitimate concern.”

King said there was a sense of urgency to regulate the e-cigarettes because of the rapid increase in use of the products and the advertisement.

“It’s really become a Wild West in the market,” King said. “People should err on the side of caution until we have more scientific information and regulation.”

Now, here in 2019, we are being told by Levine that the lung injury cases are very serious, life-threatening and even fatal.

“We do not yet know what is making people sick, and whether the illnesses are related to products being used, or potentially the delivery of those products,” Levine said.

Pennsylvania has reported nine confirmed and 12 probable cases of the lung illness to the CDC and are investigating an additional 63 cases. One case was fatal. Each of the individuals involved in the cases have suffered serious lung injuries and most have been hospitalized.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at boboyle@timesleader.com.

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf last week took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a market-based collaboration among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change while generating economic growth.

“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” Wolf said. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound and immediate steps to reduce emissions. Joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Participating states have agreed, either through regulation or legislation, to implement RGGI through a regional cap-and-trade program involving carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting electric power plants. These states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — set a cap on total CO2 emissions from electric power generators in their states.

In order to show compliance with the cap, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance,” for each ton of CO2, they emit. These purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI. The most recent RGGI auction held Sept. 4 resulted in an allowance price of $5.20 per ton. The proceeds from the auctions are allocated back to the participating states in proportion to the amount of carbon subject to regulation in each state.

“This initiative represents a unique opportunity for Pennsylvania to become a leader in combating climate change and grow our economy by partnering with neighboring states,” said Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. “As a major electricity producer, Pennsylvania has a significant opportunity to reduce emissions and demonstrate its commitment to addressing climate change through a program with a proven track record.”

The RGGI states have reduced power sector CO2 pollution by 45 percent since 2005, while the region’s per-capita GDP has continued to grow.

Pennsylvania exports nearly a third of the electricity it produces, and the cost of RGGI compliance for exported electricity will be paid by electric customers in the states where that electricity is ultimately used.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, applauded Wolf’s executive order on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Climate change is a real, priority level one threat to our environment that deserves the full attention of the legislature that this executive action will require,” Yudichak said. “As DEP begins their outreach, it will be vitally important for them to have an open dialogue with the legislature and I look forward to participating in discussions to effectively and swiftly deal with climate change.”

Reducing CO2 emissions as part of combating climate change is a top priority for the Wolf Administration. In January, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order to set Pennsylvania’s first statewide climate goals, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The scientific consensus is the planet is experiencing climate change in real time, and the impacts are felt everywhere. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update found that Pennsylvania has undergone a long-term warming over the prior 110 years, and that current warming trends are expected to increase at an accelerated rate with average temperatures projected to increase an additional 5.4 degrees by 2050. Average annual precipitation has also increased by approximately 10 percent over the past 100 years and, by 2050, is expected to increase by an additional 8 percent.

The numerous negative effects of these warming and wetting trends are currently being experienced in Pennsylvania. Last year was the wettest year on record in the commonwealth, and these increases in rainfall resulted in extreme weather events and flooding throughout the state costing residents an estimated $144 million in reported damages, and at least $125 million in state-maintained road and bridges damage throughout the state.

House Republican leaders said the regulation of carbon dioxide presents significant impacts on the economy, the environment and on the bottom line for Pennsylvania families.

“The people of our Commonwealth, as represented and heard through the General Assembly, have the absolute right to review, approve or disapprove any plan that has such far reaching implications. This move calls for another new energy fee on Pennsylvanians,” the GOP statement said. “Taxpayers will pay more every time they flip a switch, make breakfast or charge their phone.

“We strongly disagree with Gov. Wolf’s continued practice of go-it-alone approaches that are unhelpful in working cooperatively to move our Commonwealth forward in a way that best represents the interests of all Pennsylvanians.

“Our state is not an autocracy, and one-sided decisions as significant as this leave out the important voices of Pennsylvania workers, communities and families whose livelihood is built upon important sectors of our energy economy. Pennsylvania’s energy sector is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% in recent years according to some estimates, and the industry is doing this without burdensome regulations.

“We believe the executive branch cannot bind the state into multi-state agreements without the approval of the General Assembly, and we plan to execute the fullest extent of our legislative power on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.”

The Wolf Administration this week announced a 14-county expansion of the Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) program, a long-term care program that helps seniors live in their home and coordinates their health and personal needs.

Through this expansion, LIFE programs, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services (DHS), will be established in Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Fulton, Jefferson, Monroe, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Wayne Counties.

“All Pennsylvanians deserve to age in place in their community with family and peers as they are able. LIFE programs around Pennsylvania help make this possible,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are pleased to be able to bring the LIFE program to more Pennsylvanians around the commonwealth.”

Many older Pennsylvanians wish to continue living in their homes and their communities for as long as economically and medically feasible; and Pennsylvania’s LIFE program enables participants to stay out of nursing homes and remain in their own homes and communities and live happier, more productive, and more fulfilling lives.

In the face of more frequent data breaches and cyber attacks affecting governments and businesses, the Wolf administration is reminding Pennsylvanians about the need to protect their information online.

The Protecting Yourself Online guide, available on PA.gov, provides information to help prevent identity theft and other cyber crimes, as well as resources and advice on what to do if you become a victim. You can help to secure your personal information by:

• Installing firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and keeping them up to date. Many software programs and operating systems can be set to automatically update when new versions are available.

• Using strong passwords that include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not reuse passwords or use the same password for multiple accounts. There are password management programs available that can help you keep track of all your account credentials.

• Thinking before you click. Do not open email or related attachments from untrusted sources. When in doubt, delete.

• Avoiding public WiFi hot spots, such as those offered by retailers and at other locations, whenever possible. Do not transmit or receive personal information while using public WiFi.

• Educating yourself about popular online scams, such as ransom-ware and phishing, and how to recognize them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed October as “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” to encourage all Pennsylvanians to take proactive steps to protect themselves online.

You’ve probably noticed a nip in the air lately, at least at night. You’ve almost certainly seen ads for pumpkin spice — well, pretty much everything. (A recent comic strip portrayed a store display of “Pumpkin Spice” without the coffee, shake, donuts, rum or other comestibles added to it).

It is time to consider getting outdoors for that brief, annual show of Pennsylvania autumn. Plan a road trip or pick a state park and a free weekend, grab the camera (sure, you probably have a great smart phone with a foliage setting, but if you’ve got a full-fledged camera, these shots may be worth taking it along).

This space annually issues a reminder that our spectacular foliage is the exception, not the rule. As the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website notes, we are in a very narrow latitude (between 40 and 42 degrees North) with just the right altitude and varied topography to support some 134 species of trees. That, in turn, provides the spectacular autumnal palette.

It’s worth repeating each year: Only three other regions in the world support deciduous forests that display the kind of fall colors we too easily take for granted.

So start thinking in earnest about when and where to go. DCNR offers lots of help on the Fall Foliage Reports page (dcnr.pa.gov).

If you’re looking for driving-distance state parks, consider Ricketts Glen, Hickory Run, Pine Creek Gorge (the “Grand Canyon” of Pennsylvania) or the Lehigh Gorge. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area isn’t too far. There are additional trails in places like Seven Tubs, Shickshinny and Jim Thorpe (ringed by mountains that inspired some to sell it as the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania”).

The state Department of Agriculture is encouraging residents to remember that this is a great time to visit farms.

Take in a local pumpkin patch. Pennsylvania is the seventh-largest producer of the popular gourds nationally, and we have many farms here (you can locate some through the PA Preferred Pick Your Own Pumpkin Map online). Look for a corn maze (yes, you can wander “a maize maze”). Stop at the produce stands that pop up around the region and get some fresh apples, maybe some cider, maybe a few samples of the fall produce you never tried.

You can still, of course, get a hearty taste of autumn crops at Wilkes-Barre’s Farmers Market held every Thursday on Public Square.

Yes, if you do go hiking, you should take some common-sense precautions: Sturdy and comfortable shoes, sunscreen if it’s bright out (even in autumn) and you are exposing skin for very long, and clothing and repellent that will keep ticks — and the Lyme disease they can carry — away. And, just for the heck of it, consider reusable plastic bottles for drinking water, rather than buying a bunch of disposables.

But don’t let any of that deter you. Get out, breath the crisp air that is so unique to this time of year, enjoy what this state has to offer in autumn.

Pennsylvanians have many choices to seek an advanced degree, including a range of high-quality private colleges and universities that not every state can boast.

These private institutions of higher education award more than 75,000 degrees, certificates and diplomas annually. With an average of 134 years in our home communities, we are here today and will be tomorrow to assist you in building a better future for everyone.

Unlike many businesses, though, higher education is not only for the benefit of our students, but also for the advancement of our local, regional and state communities in an ongoing and perpetual fashion.

What many people do not realize, though, is that these private colleges and universities also have a very strong impact on the financial and economic vitality of Pennsylvania. A 2019 economic impact study by Parker Phillips, Inc., reveals the collective influence of our 90 private institutions: More than 195,000 jobs supported and sustained, and $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. Furthermore, the collegians seeking advanced degrees – many of whom arrive from other states – spend more than $3.4 billion each year in the commonwealth. That overall spending is the equivalent to about $1 for every $31 in the state’s economy, according to the analysis.

Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have 10 private colleges and universities. Our regional impact is nearly $1.3 billion, supporting more than 11,500 jobs and generating $60 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the report. Overall, private colleges are among the top 25 employers in 30 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

The end-results for professional careers on the local level are even more pronounced. Misericordia University, located in Dallas, is responsible for 22% of the jobs in our home in the Back Mountain. That enviable record is mirrored across many of the communities that host a private college.

Private college and universities across the commonwealth also give back in our service to others, with an estimated value of $58.9 million annually in staff, faculty and student charitable donations. That is on top of the 5.3 million hours of volunteer work – valued at $68.4 million – our students and campus colleagues enthusiastically provide to our communities. If you have a child who needs help with reading or are a senior citizen who needs support, it is common to find a student volunteer working with you.

At Misericordia, we proudly live the ethic of service that the Religious Sisters of Mercy initiated with the founding of their order and five Mercy colleges in Pennsylvania – Carlow, Mercyhurst, Gwynned Mercy and Misericordia universities, and Mount Aloysius College.

In addition to students benefitting from good on-time graduation and retention rates across multiple academic majors, each private college and university specializes in the degrees it grants to prepare students to contribute to the economy as working professionals. At Misericordia, we take great pride in educating the largest number of health care providers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with seven distinct health care majors and a number of additional academic options.

The Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program is one of only seven programs of its kind in the nation and serves as an education and workforce development model for Pennsylvania. Since its inception, the program has empowered 30 economically disadvantaged single mothers to complete a college degree (and we anxiously await their children applying to a private college someday). In addition, our Autism Center is providing training for 10 adults who will enter the workforce.

Misericordia is pleased to grant traditional degrees while being agile enough to innovate and serve those who need an opportunity to learn a skill, get a job and be a part of our growing and prosperous regional economy.

Because all budgets are limited, whether they be those of a family, a business or a government program, choices must be made.

Families try to make these decisions based upon what products or services they plan to purchase that will give them the greatest satisfaction in the short and long run. When a business’s revenue exceeds expenses, then the business determines where the extra income should be invested in order to realize the best return on that investment (ROI).

Government expenditures should be subject to similar analysis. Of course, the outcome of various government programs is often more difficult to analyze than investment decisions that families and businesses must make, but their analysis is similar. Was the ROI greater than the investment itself?

Recently two Harvard economists, Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser examined historical data on 133 federal and state government policy changes initiated over the past 50 years. These policy changes included food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid and similar state and local programs. The study, reported in various scholarly publications and the Wall Street Journal, measured the outcomes of these policies in terms of which programs were successful in developing self-sufficient people who needed less or no public assistance over time.

What they found is that social welfare programs that focused on young people had the greatest ROI. Programs that address healthcare and education issues for low income children reduced their future dependence on public aid and lifted their eventual earnings. Initiatives such as Head Start, CHIPS and allowing parents to select their children’s school produced adults who by their mid-30s were substantially better off than their counterparts who did not participate in these programs. In fact, the spending on youngsters not only returned the initial investment but an additional 47 cents for each initial dollar spent. Investment in health and education programs designed to improve the life of a child paid for generating an additional $7,014 surplus per person by the time the child is middle-aged. Now, that is a good social investment.

On the other hand, social welfare/human service programs directed at bettering the lives of adults rarely paid for themselves. In fact, they end up costing taxpayers more than their original investment. This is because welfare programs for adults such as unemployment and disability insurance, Medicaid and many similar state programs caused the recipient to use even more government-funded services. The bottom line, according to Hendren and Sprung-Keyser is that for every dollar spent on social services that attempt to better the lives of adults the cost to society is an additional 60 cents.

These important findings, and others like them, have been enabled by a relatively new instrument in economists’ research toolbox. The algorithms inherent in artificial intelligence (AI) can track and analyze millions of pieces of data over time. Using AI, Spring-Keyser, Hendren and other leading economists, such as Raj Chetty, also of Harvard, and John Friedman, of Brown University, have been able to track large groups of people and determine the outcomes of their participation in various welfare programs. The research methodology and the technology they apply is so sophisticated that it can even break down citizens data by zip code, and in some instances by city blocks, and track them over many years.

A compassionate society still has responsibilities to those adults who need help regardless of the ROI that various welfare, programs generate. Pennsylvania will spend about 37% of its 2019-20 annual budget on Human Service programs so legislators, as well as voting citizens, should consider the actual benefits that accrue to the state as a result of these programs.

The research findings of Hendren and Sprung-Keyser and others should be paramount in making such decisions.

Michael A. MacDowell is President Emeritus of Misericordia University. He is also a Trustee of the Calvin K. Kazanjian Foundation.

Diamonds to Lori Masi of Bear Creek Township and ADT for using a happy ending to a potential disaster as a cautionary tale for the rest of us. Masi invited the media to her home to recount how ADT security monitoring helped save her family when a gas leak was detected while they slept. ADT called the house when the detection was relayed to them, and told them to get out of the house quickly while contacting first responders, who shut off the gas. The story is a real-world reminder of the need to check gas-burning equipment regularly, and the value of having carbon monoxide detectors in every home. it’s also a timely reminder. As heating season approaches (indeed, you may already have fired up the furnace this week to fend off a few cool nights), homeowners who already haven’t should call to get furnaces and water heaters checked, as well as any other gas connections such as stoves. The cost of annual inspections is insignificant to the price paid when a leak goes undetected.

Coal to Pennsylvania State Trooper Cpl. Eric Porpiglia, who pleaded guilty this week to charges of driving under the influence and endangering children after two separate incidents this year. Police at all levels deserve high praise for putting their lives in daily peril to protect the rest of us, and it isn’t easy to call one out in this space. But public trust is an integral part of their jobs, and when one makes a mistake like this, it can make it harder for others even when undeserving of suspicion. The fact that Porpiglia was arrested while two girls ages 2 and 8 were passengers makes this that much tougher to take. That incident occurred in May. Porpiglia was also involved in a Butler Township arrest in February when police responded to a motor vehicle accident.

Diamonds to the AllOne Foundation and King’s College for arranging and hosting the Opioid Crisis Solutions Symposium this week. The day-long symposium drew — among others — state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Deputy Secretary for Health Preparedness and Community Protection Raphael Barishansky. Both stressed the importance of attacking the opioid crisis on as many fronts as possible, and both talked in terms of accomplishments that would sound fairly impressive in a vacuum but do not, as Barishansky put it, mean “mission accomplished.” Opioid abuse is crippling the region, state and country, and the symposium helped highlight the state’s successful efforts to bend the curve while keeping in mind how much more work needs to be done.

Coal to vandals. No, of course we don’t mean the Germanic people who sacked Rome in AD 455, but their reputation lives on in abundance locally. The most recent case involves four men and one juvenile accused of illegally entering the former Wilkes-Barre Township High School last month and vandalizing the interior. Coal, while we’re at it, to the government entities — In this case the Wilkes-Barre Area School District and the township, who let such buildings deteriorate, making them attractive targets for such attacks. But they may have reasons for neglect. There is no reason to damage someone else’s property just because you can.

One of the nation’s emerging public health issues seemed to be making headlines from hour to hour this week.

On Thursday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Delaware health officials announced their state’s first death of a patient with a vaping-related lung illness. The New Jersey Department of Health on Tuesday announced the first death in its state associated with vaping, the Inquirer added, although the death was reported to the department in August.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that the nation’s number of vaping-related lung injury cases stood at 1,080 as of Tuesday with 18 deaths in 15 states, with more under investigation.

In a nation of nearly 330 million, 1,000 illnesses and 18 deaths may seem statistically small — naturally not to those affected, of course — and there has been some debate about whether the media attention devoted to this outbreak is disproportionate to its size.

The facts are these: This nation is seeing rising numbers of people dying from use of a technology whose health effects are still not fully understood, and which some people adopt because they believe to be less damaging than conventional tobacco smoking. It would be foolish if medical officials and the media did not react to such an alarming trend.

On its website, the CDC carefully lays out what we know, what we don’t know, and what the agency is doing. Among key points:

• Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products. The latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak.

• Approximately 80% of patients are under 35; 16% of patients are under 18 years old and 21% of patients are 18 to 20.

• The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, remains unknown.

• Users may not know what is in their e-cigarette or e-liquid solutions, and whether they have been modified.

• More information is needed to know whether one or more e-cigarette or vaping products, substances, or brands is responsible for the outbreak.

CDC recommends that people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, while the investigation is ongoing.

There is just so much we — medical community, media, consumers — don’t know about the dangers of vaping and the nature of this outbreak, and we agree with that recommendation.

But we all know that breaking an addictive habit “cold turkey” won’t be so simple for most people, despite the dangers now emerging.

More practically, perhaps, CDC warns users they should not buy vaping products from friends, family members or “off the street,” and that they should not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.

Anyone who has recently used the products and has symptoms like those described by the CDC should see a healthcare provider.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in September declared a public health emergency and banned the sale of all vaping products in the state for four months; a lawsuit by vape shop owners was filed this week.

It’s a case other states should watch, if not immediately follow. But they also should be looking at the long term.

In a positive legislative step, Pennsylvania’s state Senate last week voted to raise the age for buying all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21; it’s now headed to the House, where we hope lawmakers will vote to send it to Gov. Wolf for his approval.

Considering that many smokers and vapers pick up the habit at a young age, we believe it will help reduce the number of people who become addicted.

The article “House GOP leaders: ‘No interest in legalizing recreational marijuana’” by Bill O’Boyle published on Sept. 29 highlights the GOP’s opposition to the overwhelming public support for legalizing adult-use cannabis.

A survey conducted during the lieutenant governor’s public forum across Pennsylvania revealed that 82% of residents support making the plant legal.

House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler uses the opioid epidemic to justify his party’s opposition. However, studies show that cannabis alleviates pain, manages PTSD and is a safer and more effective alternative to opioids.

Many states have legalized recreational use of marijuana such as Colorado, Michigan and Maine with positive results.

It is time Pennsylvania joins these states and takes a lead in this growing industry, as we have already seen with the boom of Pennsylvania hemp. This would be a substantial benefit to the state by affording us much needed revenue. Money to revitalize marginalized communities, fund quality public education and restore our crumbling infrastructure.

One reason I support Bernie Sanders for president is that he is the only candidate in support of legalizing cannabis. I have seen its positive effects, and if you are laughing you probably have too. I urge everyone today to call their state representative to co-sponsor House Bill 50 to legalize recreational adult-use cannabis.

Imagine you see someone standing on the sidewalk as a car passes by, going through a mud puddle that splashes all over him. The next day you read about the event in a newspaper. The headline says, “Auto Driver Tries to Drown Pedestrian,” and you realize you are reading The New York Times, the same paper that tried to make it sound evil that President Donald Trump had a telephone call with the prime minister of Australia.

The call was not all that extraordinary, just the kind of thing presidents sometimes have to do. The Justice Department, you see, is investigating whether the Mueller probe into Trump allegedly colluding with the Russians was baselessly instigated by government officials. We already have had some scary developments along those lines, and, if it should be true, this could be even worse than Russian interference with our elections. If our own government and partisan politicians get away with turning laws and principles upside down so that bureaucrats instead of voters decide with help from members of Congress who presidents are, the America republic is gone, kaput, finished.

They are at it again, with the usual assistance of certain news outlets that are more nearly views outlets. Part of the Justice Department probe concerns Australians playing a role in the shenanigans, and so, before department agents started checking out these people, Trump was asked to call to assure the prime minister’s concurrence. As a signal of the threats to our system of governance, sources of some devious kind related the call’s content to the Times, which had this to say, high up in a front-page story:

“The president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.”

This opinion, which does not belong in a straight news story, runs counter to the fact that Trump’s phone call was run-of-the-mill stuff in this sort of situation. What’s more, the idea of “corrupt, partisan origins” of a two-year, multimillion-dollar effort finding nothing is hardly a Trump invention. It is the consequence of revelations the Times surely has noticed. This current investigation appears far more justified than the Mueller embarrassment, and attacks on Attorney General William Barr for his role are also absurd. He’s supposed to sit back and twirl his thumbs when our democracy is at stake?

Of course, the media focus has lately been on Trump’s impeachment-inducing Ukrainian phone call, which could be serious if Trump is proven to have had ulterior motives in temporarily withholding aid to Ukraine. But even this case is mostly flimsy and the accusers have plenty to answer for. The whistleblower, for instance, is not a whistleblower in the usual sense. This person seems to have based his or her charges on what others said, not direct knowledge, and now he or she wants to remain unidentified. The reason cited is fear of physical attack when the real fear may be that the whole truth comes out. But if necessary, surround the person with troops.

This business of revealing what is said in presidential phone calls is itself frightening, to say the least. How can presidents and foreign leaders have candid, strategic exchanges if the whole world has a chance to learn what was said. Those telling us it’s wrong to try harder to protect the information would probably advise unlocked doors after burglaries.

What I am writing is a self-confessed opinion article, not a straight news story, and so I think it is OK for me to end with a sentence about the Times like the sentence I quoted by the Times: The newspaper is using freedom of the press to aid its get-Trump agenda, flatten those whose common sense gets in the way and show that this president is guilty of everything and anything no matter what the facts are.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at speaktojay@aol.com.

I’m a lipstick-wearing, red-meat-eating, Diet-Coke-drinking, heterosexual, cis-gender patriotic American feminist of Sicilian and French-Canadian descent who can recite both “Who’s On First?” and “Little Women” in their entirety without breaking a sweat.

I don’t like beer, scented candles, pie or sports, I prefer cats to dogs, and I drive a classic non-fuel-efficient convertible, which my husband of 28 years and I often take to the casino. I believe in a woman’s right to choose and hope that God loves me, even though I’m not sure I believe God exists in the first place.

So what part of that made you want to throw me into the alligator moat? Was it my use of the term “cis-gender”? Wearing lipstick or wanting women to have health care? The mention of God alongside a confession of wavering belief?

Here’s what I have to guard against doing these days: I sweep too swiftly past a cursory acknowledgement of differences between people in search of consecrating divisions. I find myself gathering up reasons to distinguish my own clan from rival ones as if I’m working a pyramid scheme in reverse. I’m an omnivore; she’s a vegetarian. I’m letting our differences define us.

How can she NOT understand this point I’m making? What is WRONG with her? She, of course, is thinking the same about me. Or at least, that’s what I fear — I am, I suppose, easy to judge, if you’re so inclined. Not exactly a woman of mystery.

Is it surprising, then, that I hesitate to discuss significant issues with those whose viewpoints I don’t think align with my own? Even when we’re on the same side, we can end up yelling at each other with a level of viciousness usually reserved for drivers vying for the same parking space if one little piece of their worldview seems slightly askew.

Political discourse has become an oxymoron; nothing is off-limits; rhetoric has been replaced by rock-throwing. Everything encourages us to regard those who aren’t with us as against us, and to judge them as treasonous, sinister, desperate or — dare I say? — deplorable.

Then I — and we, yes, I’m going with “we” — unearth justifications for our point of view the way hounds hunt for bones. (It’s not that I don’t like dogs, you see; it’s just that I really like cats.) It’s not enough to feel we’re right: we want to prove we’re right, to ourselves as much as to anyone else (maybe more so). That’s why we find ourselves becoming positively evangelical about things we know are none of our business, such as who eats what and who sleeps with whom.

Our beliefs define us. And who wants to be undefined in today’s world? So we scrape together convenient truths and build our identities out of them.

A recent article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times, for example, follows the uproar over new scientific evidence suggesting that, despite years of being lectured about the damage a single sausage could cause our overall well-being, “an individual cannot conclude that he or she will be better off not eating red meat” based on existing studies.

Heads of major schools of medicine are weighing in; those studying the climate are weighing in; I’m weighing in (or to be more precise, weighing the locally farmed steaks we’re grilling this weekend).

We’re having the filets with home-schooled potatoes, though, because I’m not part of the cult where carbohydrates are seen as the food of the devil. The Paleos treat carbs the way the Puritans treated witches: Dunk them in water, and if they bob to the surface, they must be evil and destroyed. “Get thee behind me, pasta!” cry the Paleos as they recoil, secretly worried that they’ll be tempted despite repeatedly whispering “hunger is part of the transition.”

If we’re in danger of losing our souls, it’s not because of what we’re putting into our mouths — it’s because we’re being driven by our guts and not our brains. We push away ideas that aren’t form-fitted into our existing biases with the gesture a toddler uses to reject food she’s never tasted. But as adults, we justify our uninformed instincts and hunker down in our original position, shaking our heads without noticing there’s an empty sound where original thought should be.

When we encounter a space we haven’t yet filled with bias and belief, it gets filled with alligators and other monsters, making us wary and frightened. We don’t know where to find comfort. We don’t know who counts as a true ally or a genuine friend. Lonely and bereft, we’re tempted to become part of a mob just to be able to hang out with people.

Community calls for compromise and trust. I’ll cook a vegan lasagna and somebody else can grill while, in the background, the baseball game plays, and your puppy runs in the yard, and people talk with patience and curiosity about their politics and personal choices, unburdened by prefabricated groupthink. The devil, bored, goes searching for beer, while God — who may or may not exist — lies half-listening in the hammock. As I start reciting “Little Women,” everybody quickly packs up to home.

Gina Barreca is a board of trustees distinguished professor of English literature at the University of Connecticut and the author of 10 books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.

WILKES-BARRE — At what was supposed to be a scheduling conference for potentially moving the cases of two defendants accused of killing an Edwardsville man to juvenile court, the attorney for one of those juveniles […]

HANOVER TWP. — A convicted felon arrested last month on charges he was peddling crack cocaine swore on his mother’s life telling drug agents he did not have body armor and a firearm. Authorities later […]

DANVILLE — Geisinger Medical Center in Danville says it is transferring some infants following a bacterial infection in its neonatal intensive care unit that affected eight newborns, three of whom have died. Geisinger Medical Center […]

ARCHBALD — A jackpot-winning Pennsylvania Lottery Cash 5 ticket sold for the Saturday, Oct. 5 drawing matched all five balls drawn, 01-18-21-24-43, to win $500,000, less withholding. Smoke Rings, 7 Kennedy Drive, Archbald, earns a […]

KINGSTON — The Municipality of Kingston’s regular monthly meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7, in Council Chambers, 500 Wyoming Ave. Kingston. / / https://s24526.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/web1_KingstonSignGraphic-JPEG.jpg

LAKE TWP. — A man was killed when a tree he was cutting fell striking his head and back on Sunday, state police at Wyoming said. State police said Robert E. Lee, 67, of Meeker […]

Panzitta Enterprises Inc., of Wilkes-Barre, has received a $159,030 contract to repair the stairway and elevator access tower at Luzerne County’s Water Street parkade near the courthouse, according to a contract recently approved by county […]

Big-ticket property assessment refunds have forced Luzerne County’s administration to make a budget transfer to cover bills, records show. The administration had requested $500,000 for refunds this year, but council ended up reducing the allotment […]

HAZLETON – For more than thirty years, Grace Cuozzo has been described as a “watchdog” of Hazleton city government. But, Cuozzo, who lost her battle with cancer early on Sunday morning at 63, never liked […]

BAGHDAD — Twelve anti-government demonstrators were killed Sunday in ongoing protests in the capital Baghdad, the latest fatalities in six days of clashes that have left more than 100 dead and thousands wounded. Iraq’s government […]

Does anyone still cruise anymore? I did during the late 1980s, first in my beat up silver 1977 Toyota Celica and later in my blessed 1985 Ford Mustang LX equipped with an aftermarket Pioneer cassette […]

WASHINGTON — A second whistleblower has come forward with information about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, adding to the impeachment peril engulfing the White House and potentially providing new leads to Democrats in their […]

Last week actress Diahann Carroll died of complications from breast cancer. On average, one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Let that sink in, because the statistic […]

In our fast-paced world, driven by technology, it is no wonder that the quiet simplicity of the Amish lifestyle continues to fascinate. Away from the complexity of the modern world, their culture is driven by […]

Finally, one GOP senator had the guts to tweet the obvious: “The President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.” Thank you, Mitt Romney, but […]

WILKES-BARRE — It was announced Friday that Pennsylvania has recorded its first death attributed to “vaping.” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed the death and multiple cases […]

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf last week took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a market-based collaboration among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic […]

You’ve probably noticed a nip in the air lately, at least at night. You’ve almost certainly seen ads for pumpkin spice — well, pretty much everything. (A recent comic strip portrayed a store display of […]

Pennsylvanians have many choices to seek an advanced degree, including a range of high-quality private colleges and universities that not every state can boast. These private institutions of higher education award more than 75,000 degrees, […]

Because all budgets are limited, whether they be those of a family, a business or a government program, choices must be made. Families try to make these decisions based upon what products or services they […]

Diamonds to Lori Masi of Bear Creek Township and ADT for using a happy ending to a potential disaster as a cautionary tale for the rest of us. Masi invited the media to her home […]

One of the nation’s emerging public health issues seemed to be making headlines from hour to hour this week. On Thursday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Delaware health officials announced their state’s first death of […]

The article “House GOP leaders: ‘No interest in legalizing recreational marijuana’” by Bill O’Boyle published on Sept. 29 highlights the GOP’s opposition to the overwhelming public support for legalizing adult-use cannabis. A survey conducted during […]

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