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Everybody's column

News should not portray Mayer as hero or victim

I was appalled at the Jan. 29 front-page story about Olympian Travis Mayer. It was an insult to the family of Diane Hamblin, who was killed by Mayer's unexplained carelessness and irresponsibility. How did Mayer put his life in perspective? Does he devote some aspect of his life to a worthy cause? Does he volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, or work with handicapped athletes to make up, in some small way, for the life he needlessly took? No, he just went back to a self-centered, incredibly pampered lifestyle that most of us can't even imagine.

What about Hamblin's husband and children? Their lives will always have a void that cannot be filled. They have to go through their life events, from the mundane to the momentous -- soccer games, piano recitals, proms, graduations, weddings -- without their mother.

The "overcame personal tragedy" angle should be reserved for those who have suffered a painful loss, not for someone who inflicted a fatal loss on innocent people. Mayer may be a decent young man who had a lapse in judgment, with a terrible price. But he is not a hero or a victim by any means.

Sheila Balke

East Amherst


HMOs could improve access to services for their patients

The Jan. 29 News article, "Health insurers compete on more than price," was self-serving. Each insurance company stated that it differentiates itself by improving customer service. Dr. Michael Cropp, president and CEO of Independent Health, said, "We're here to make sure our members get the care and service that they need. Anything we can do to expedite their access to those services is what we do."

I work for Open MRI of Niagara Falls and have been trying to become a participating provider with HealthNow, Independent Health and Univera. All three companies have denied us access to their network.

Open MRI of Niagara Falls is the only open MRI facility in Niagara County, particularly suited to servicing claustrophobic and large patients. Niagara County residents have to travel 20 miles one way to the next nearest open MRI located in Erie County. This is a hardship on the elderly, and those who do not have private transportation.

All three insurance companies require that all MRIs be preauthorized. This means we accept what the insurance company will pay. Neither cost nor usage will go up, but the access by local patients to required health care would be improved.

Carol Lawler

Marketing Manager

Open MRI of Niagara Falls


Clinton's childish behavior during address was shameful

For those who have any doubt about what the administration policy of Hillary Clinton might be should she be elected president in 2008, she made it very plain in her body language during the State of the Union speech on Jan. 31.

While President Bush was attempting to talk about the wiretapping program that he has legally initiated under his constitutional ability, our junior senator sat in the audience shaking her head in disagreement and grinning in such a disrespectful and childish fashion that it should make anyone with a sense of character and love for this country and its freedoms shrink in embarrassment.

Clearly the silence that emanated from the White House during the administration of President Bill Clinton -- when Osama bin Laden could have been captured or otherwise dealt with, when the USS Cole was bombed and when our World Trade Center was attacked in the mid-1990s -- would be modeled once again should we be foolish enough to entertain the idea of allowing Clinton an opportunity to walk the hallowed halls of our White House as anything other than a senator or former first lady.

Melanie Mann



Toles' tasteless cartoon was offensive to many

We strongly support the action of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in objecting to Tom Toles' insensitive and tasteless cartoon, which was reprinted in The News on Feb. 1. The First Amendment is not only a right but a responsibility. What he intended is irrelevant; what he did is offend.

Eileen and Charles R. Clough

Anne and Dennis Kidney

Orchard Park


Joint Chiefs' attack on Toles and free speech is disturbing

Once again members of the Bush administration are assaulting the most important foundation stone of democracy: freedom of speech. Tom Toles is a gifted, Pulitzer Prize-winning artist and insightful social critic. More importantly, he is an American citizen exercising his constitutional right to participate in public speech and debate. When the Joint Chiefs of Staff attack him for expressing his views, it is they, not Toles, who are insulting the sacrifices of soldiers who presumably believe that they are fighting to protect our most cherished values.

Perhaps the Joint Chiefs believe they are fighting to protect Exxon Mobil's right to make exorbitant profits. Clearly they consider "our" Bill of Rights expendable.

Kari Winter

UB Associate Professor, American Studies



News owes veterans an apology for printing outrageous cartoon

How any self-respecting American newspaper can use depictions of disabled veterans to advance a political agenda is an outrage and disgrace. The Buffalo News owes all veterans an apology for publishing Tom Toles' sad commentary of a disabled veteran.

Michael Patskin

Chief Petty Officer, U.S. Navy, retired

North Tonawanda


Actions on health care speak louder than words

An article in Prospectus 2006 quoted Alphonso O'Neil-White, CEO of HealthNow, as saying, "we don't think we can be good stewards of the health care dollars without the providers." However, its executives continue to sap increasing salary dollars from increasing employers' and subscribers' premium dollars, while setting fee rates for behavioral health care providers below those established in the Western New York community in the 1990s.

This state of affairs would seem to contradict his statement. This would appear to be a devaluing of psychological services by Blue Cross Blue Shield and a relegation of mental health services to para-professionals and less well-credentialed professionals. Ultimately, this would seem to presage a barrier to accessing high-quality psychological services by Blue Cross subscribers and their families.

James M. Shiffner



Put an end to crime wave before the problem grows

I'd like to let newly elected Mayor Byron Brown know, assuming he doesn't already, of the recent crime wave occurring on or near the Elmwood strip. Recent car break-ins -- one of which I was a victim of, my first after 16 years of living in the Elmwood village -- and business robberies are becoming sadly too common in the darling of one of maybe four viable commercial districts in Buffalo.

I think enforcement of jaywalking laws would be a good place to start. Local motorists know all too well of constantly trying to avoid groups of people walking four abreast on a thoroughfare, only to wonder why they are in the street to begin with?

Since living in my neighborhood, I've witnessed the sad decline of Grant Street. I hope Elmwood isn't next.

Tim Saracki


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