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Everybody's Column

>Defensive reply to UB story is completely unwarranted

I've been intrigued, to say the least, with the defensive responses of a number of my University at Buffalo colleagues to the Jan. 29 News article on the salaries of former UB administrators. The issue, of course, is not whether each of the faculty members on the list is teaching, advising and conducting research. That's their job -- at any salary -- and we should expect nothing less. Nor is it whether they had academic tenure prior to their administrative appointments.

The issue is whether their current salaries are commensurate with their scholarly heft. In a few instances, the answer is clearly no. And where the answer is no, we're led to a second question: Do market forces, in fact, require such "deals" to be struck in order to attract the "best" administrators?

If the honest answer is yes, then UB leaders simply need to explain this to the public. And if the answer is no, then they would appear to have an obligation to rethink the nature of the administrative hiring contracts they execute. One might ponder the (admittedly small) number of up-and-coming young professors who could be hired with the money potentially saved.

In any event, I think these reflexively defensive reactions to a fundamentally fair article do UB's image more harm than good. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a junior UB administrator who, with the writing of this letter, may have just improved my chances of staying a junior UB administrator.

Kurt F. Winter
Orchard Park


>Grass-cutting violation amounts to harassment

I read in the Feb. 16 News that Harvey A. Garrett was convicted of a non-criminal trespass violation for cutting grass on Essex Street -- a narrow, city-owned "tree lawn" between the sidewalk and street. Is this what you get for assisting the city in keeping it neat and clean? One would think the city would commend an individual for taking the initiative. Unless there is more to this story, it appears to be harassment on the part of the city.

In other words, I should not mow the grass on the "tree lawn" in front of my house or I could get charged. What would happen if every homeowner in the city did this? We would probably get charged for not mowing. To mow or not to mow, that is the question, at least in Buffalo!

Paul Noreck


>State help is needed to fund crucial studies

I am writing in regard to the Feb. 12 News article, "State urged to help fund stem cell research." Along with the university and research institution presidents, New Yorkers for the Advancement of Medical Research is also advocating for state funding of regenerative medicine, including embryonic stem cell research.

More than 100 adults and children representing diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury and lupus traveled to Albany on Feb. 13 to explain to their legislators the impact regenerative medicine could have on their lives. We urged legislators to work with the governor to include $100 million for all types of stem cell research in the 2006-07 budget.

Decisions on funding medical research should be objective and based on scientific facts, not politics or religious beliefs. Different types of stem cells offer the best promise of cures. Embryonic and adult stem cells are not interchangeable, and both types of research should be funded.

Since 2001, federal restrictions on embryonic research funding have impeded the research progress. State funding is becoming more crucial for finding cures and effective treatments for people with devastating disease and injuries.

Linda Herman


>Better tracking systems could prevent fraud

Some of the information given in the Feb 12 News article, "Caregivers often culprits in stealing from the elderly," was misleading. The Social Security number is in use all over the place and is often in clear sight. It appears on Medicare cards. It also used to be on Blue Cross Blue Shield cards and used for student numbers at the University at Buffalo. In at least one state, it was used for driver's licenses.

Some legislation has been considered to limit the use of Social Security numbers to Social Security. However, it would be better to use it to actually detect identity theft and fraud by tracking all uses of a given number in banking. If someone's number is used to open new credit accounts, this would show up clearly and quickly and could be checked. Let the computer do part of the police work.

June B. Costello


>Democracy should start at home in the U.S.

It is difficult to distinguish in this administration where incompetence ends and authoritarian development begins. It asserts its "democracy-building" project amid massacre and burgeoning radical fundamentalist tyranny in Iraq, while implementing torture and homicide in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and several officially undisclosed locations. In our own nation, we see arrests without cause, extraditions without threat, incarcerations without trial, convictions without evidence and, now, spying on Americans without warrant.

Our own community has seen examples of this sweep against the U.S. Constitution, including the arrests of local scholar and artist Steven Kurtz in the pursuit of his art, of Algerian emigre Benamar Benatta in the pursuit of freedom in our free country and of the six Lackawanna Muslims, whose self-aborted mission to an al-Qaida camp resulted, despite no evidence of any active threat or plans, in their being stamped as a terror cell. If we must succumb to the illusion of "exporting" democracy abroad, we might at least remind ourselves of its necessity at home.
Robert Sandgrund


>News went overboard with crime details

This letter is in reference to the Feb. 15 story, "Teen tries to explain a killing." I'm sorry, but did we really need to know every last gory detail of Joseph Matteliano's tragic murder? Did it really have news value to recount the grisly details of how, after Patrick Farrell stabbed his victim four times in the back and chest, the blade broke off and Farrell proceeded to punch him in the face with the knife handle? Who, exactly, needs to know these and the other gruesome details reported in the story?

That sort of sick voyeurism doesn't belong on the front page of the City & Region section. When I buy The Buffalo News, all I really need is an informed recounting of the day's events. This story crossed the line, and served no journalistic purpose other than gruesome titillation. I would say The News should be ashamed of itself, but all it's really done is yet again prove the old saying in journalism that if it bleeds, it leads.

Patrick Kewley


>Return the 'human' in 'communications'

The "Family Circus" in the Feb. 12 comics eloquently exemplifies what is missing in today's telephone communication: a human being. Telephone calls to companies, government and other entities bring forth menus. If you want A, press 1, if you want B, press 2, etc. I am not adverse to technology. However, technology should not dehumanize communication. It is nice to have a human being answer a telephone call.

Bedros (Pete) Odian

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