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72° Good Afternoon

On our minds: Space, scary stat, Jones Beach State Park, school shows

A look at the east end of Jones

A look at the east end of Jones Beach, damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Oct. 31, 2012) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Newsday's editorial board spends all week striving to be a reasoned and pragmatic voice for Long Island and its values through our editorials and columns. Here's a glimpse of other topics we tossed around the room this week.

Did you know? Scientists recently found a planet we must go see: We just need a faster way to get there. Kepler-186f appears to be an almost perfect match with Earth. It's the 69th exoplanet (meaning it's similar to Earth) we've found since 2009. But it's the first that's so like our planet in size and distance from its star that it could host liquid water, and life of a kind we're familiar with. Trouble is, it's 500 light-years away.

In space terms, that's close enough to bother possible inhabitants for a cup of sugar. In terms of our travel capabilities, even at the speed of 90,000 mph that engineers are working to achieve, it would take 4 million years to get there. Still, the fact that it's there and we found it is inspiring. In the universe, Earth is like a single grain of sand on the beach, which makes our troubles seem smaller, and our opportunities to learn immense.

Alarmed? 2.6 -- That's how many years life expectancy has shrunk for the poorest 10 percent of women in the United States, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of people born in 1920 and 1940. For the poorest 40 percent of women, life span is shrinking. For other women, and all men, life span is increasing, as it has almost throughout the history of our nation. The richer the people, the greater the increase. The idea that poverty may be shortening life spans in such a wealthy nation casts the income gap in a different light.

Going? State officials have committed to spending $65 million to revitalize and rehabilitate Jones Beach State Park. The plan is ambitious and much needed. Historic structures will be restored, the Central Mall will get a face-lift, food and recreation options will be expanded, and the park that was battered by superstorm Sandy will be made more storm-resistant.

The public can weigh in on the plan in a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Nassau County Legislative Building in Mineola. State parks officials and landscape architects will answer questions and record comments. Given the protests that greeted Donald Trump's attempt to build a catering facility at Jones Beach, it's clear Long Islanders care intensely about the park. Jones Beach is our treasure. Go have a say in its future.

Agree? Elwood school officials cancelled a kindergarten show in May. One parent started an online petition to get it reinstated. Our columnist Lane Filler said the shows are painful but that the school should have been more sensitive. What do you think?