For the past 20 years we at U.S. 1 have used this year-end issue to salute the “helping hands” in our community who improve the lives and ease the pain of others. This issue is a little different. We are still running our usual sampling of photographs documenting good deeds over the past year. But the author of our first person feature, Wayne Cooke, at first might seem more like a person who would need help, rather than give it.

Yet his exposition of his four-year battle with cancer is both heartening and helpful. One of his doctors read an excerpt and told Cooke he had to publish it so that others in similar circumstances could benefit from his insight. That “doctor’s order” led Cooke to discuss the matter with an editor he knew from church: Barbara Fox of U.S. 1, who suggested the piece for our Helping Hands issue. We are glad she did.

This final issue of the year is accompanied by a copy of our annual wall calendar. Each of the companies on our delivery list gets one. If you would like an extra one, stop by 12 Roszel Road and pick one up — our gift to you. Or ask your deliverer for an extra one when he or she next comes by your office — Wednesday, January 2.

To the Editor: Family Leave A Lump of Coal

This holiday season it appears both employers and employees in New Jersey will find a lump of coal in their stockings thanks to a legislative proposal with a wonderful sounding name — paid family leave.

The supporters of this legislation claim it will be a cure all for New Jersey families, providing a low cost option for those who need to spend time with family in crisis situations. The definition of crisis, in this case, is so broadly interpreted, that emotional stress is enough to trigger the leave. If passed, this initiative will create problems for those who don’t take the leave and their employers who struggle to remain competitive.

When someone takes paid leave, the reality of the situation is that the workload doesn’t change. In this market it is unlikely that a qualified replacement, willing to take a job for a few weeks or months, can be found. Without someone to fill the position, those left at work will have to step up production or work longer hours to compensate for the missing worker. How ironic that a bill heralded as something to help families will actually increase the demands placed on others, keeping them from their families.

The problems created for the employer community are even greater. Running a business is difficult enough without having the state step in with a one-size-fits-all benefit package. How can a small businessperson be expected to balance a leave program that allows significant amounts of time to be taken on short notice? And what about those industries that require a license or a background check for employees, like emergency rooms, insurance agencies or casinos?

Here’s the kicker: employers who are able already provide this benefit, without government mandate, in the effort to maintain a quality workforce in a competitive environment.

Employers and employees together should voice their opposition to this new tax and ask elected officials to oppose paid leave legislation. For the employer, it’s an issue for collective bargaining; for the employee, it’s a tax on wages that may result in increased demands in the workplace. If you enjoy the benefits of the high wages paid by New Jersey’s globally competitive companies, this one is not for you.

Joan Verplanck

President, NJ Chamber of Commerce

True Alternatives Urged In Animal Testing Debate

In the December 10 Lame Duck session, the Senate passed a product testing bill that calls for replacing traditional animal test methods with valid and appropriate “alternatives” if they are available. In recognition of the Legislature’s good intentions, the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (NJABR) applauds lawmakers’ efforts to advance animal welfare without endangering the public’s health and safety.

Our statewide research advocacy coalition fully supports the search for and use of alternatives to traditional animal test methods in consumer product testing. Ethical concerns for the protection and safety of animals as well as humans coupled with the cost of carrying out animal testing drive science’s search for alternatives. Finding and using alternatives is beneficial scientifically, ethically, and financially.

While animal rights advocates seeking to eliminate all animal use for human benefit disagree, the search for alternatives is driven by good science. In fact, the research community is developing the novel methods called for in the legislation as a routine way of doing business. Thanks to advances in technology and the way science actually works, the use of animals in research, testing, and education has changed dramatically and will continue to change.

It is unfortunate that the Legislature has accepted the popular interpretation of the term “alternatives.” As applied to animal use in science, people promoting the end of animal testing limit the meaning to Replacement. The broader definition — adopted by the global scientific community — embraces 3Rs: Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement. The 3Rs are methods, models, and approaches that REDUCE the number of animals required, incorporate REFINEMENTS to lessen pain or distress, and REPLACE whole animals or substitute a species that is nonmammalian or invertebrate.

On behalf of the thousands of New Jerseyans engaged in the search for safe, effective treatments as well as consumer products, we offer a word of caution with the congratulations. The Legislature has chosen, perhaps unwittingly, to adopt language that fuels the unfounded charge that, without prohibiting animal testing, companies and laboratories will persist in using traditional testing methods.

We see a pattern in the Legislature that contributes to the erosion of public support for science and research in the state that claims to the “the medicine cabinet of the world.” By criminalizing science and scientists, New Jersey fosters a hostile environment that will drive scientists and research-intensive industry from the state.

We call for better communication and a show of confidence in the people and the complex process designed to improve and protect the health of both humans and animals.

Jayne Mackta

President, NJ Association

for Biomedical Research

A ‘Bright’ Idea For Green Holidays

Around this time of year, the streets are decorated with many lights. With Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all at the same time, it seems nearly everyone has something to celebrate. And with celebrations and holidays come many lights. Although these lights bring joy and happiness to the gray, snowy December days, we must consider how much energy and money is being used. Though trying to bring cheer to other people is a good use of energy, keeping lights on all the time is not.

The average household uses ten strands of lights. If each strand uses a hundred watts and roughly three-fourths of all U.S. households have light displays, indoors or outdoors, that means that for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we use over 20 billion kilowatt-hours. At $.0853 per kilowatt-hour, that’s about $1.7 billion. We’re using a lot of money and energy for decoration.

Now I love these lights, but the amount of money and energy we expend is huge. Many people are considering switching to LEDs which use less energy. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to replace every single light, and many people just aren’t ready to spend that kind of money.

But here’s a bright idea. If we turn lights off earlier, that would save incredible amounts of energy and money. Since most kids are in bed by 10 p.m., that would be a good time to turn them off. If everyone in the United States turned off their lights by 10, using them for about four hours instead of eight, that would cut the amount of energy (and money) used in half. That would mean saving about 10 billion kilowatts and about $859 million.

I am only one person, but I have taken a “contract” around my neighborhood and many of the residents of Fisher Place and Fairview Avenue in West Windsor have already agreed to turn their lights off at 10, when most kids are in bed. Some have also agreed to turn their lights off completely for one day a week. Anybody who drives down our street on Wednesday may see no holiday lights but we will still be celebrating. Whoever wants to follow our example is welcome to. It is a simple way to really help save the world and your electricity bill! Avery Miller

Miller is a seventh grader at Community Middle School in West Windsor.

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