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Everybody's Column

>Most Wal-Mart workers do have health coverage

A June 4 News article omitted numerous facts about Wal-Mart's record on health care, possibly because those facts did not fit the theme of its story, "Wal-Mart lets public foot the bill."

Today, every eligible full-time and part-time Wal-Mart associate in New York has access to multiple company health care plans with coverage starting at as little as $23 a month. Nationally, 90.4 percent of our associates report having some form of health coverage and more than 1 million Americans are covered by Wal-Mart plans. Of those who chose our plans for the first time during the last open enrollment period, 53.2 percent said they were previously uninsured, 27.5 percent said they could not afford coverage previously and 7.8 percent said they came off Medicaid.

Wal-Mart provides competitive wages and good benefits, which is why our stores regularly receive thousands of applications for just a few hundred positions. In fact, we now provide more than 3,500 local jobs. With new stores planned for North Tonawanda and Evans, we will create more than 700 additional jobs, making Wal-Mart one of the few corporations consistently creating new opportunities in the area.

The News did have at least one fact correct: Every local business is dealing with the rising cost of health care. But no one business, labor union or government organization can solve this country's health care crisis alone.

Hank Mullany
President, Northeast Division
Wal-Mart Stores


>War would end quickly if politicians had to go

Like so many others, I, too, am tired of this war. Sending more soldiers is not the answer. My son will be going back to Iraq again in August, and for what?

Politicians risk nothing by sending our soldiers over there. Their kids are not in the military, ours are. Increasing the number of soldiers there is not working. The Iraqis will never step up to the plate if we keep doing their job. They need help building a stronger government. I have a new strategy for Iraq: Send politicians, not soldiers.

Barbara Shea


>Diocese is turning its back on the poor

In regard to the closing of churches and schools by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo going back to 1993, it seems to me that this diocese has set a pattern that sends up a red flag.

If you look at a map of the churches and schools that have been closed so far and the ones rumored to soon meet the same fate, one can't help but come to the conclusion that the diocese has very little interest in imparting the faith to the poor. The message seems to be that if your parish and its surrounding neighborhoods aren't affluent, the diocese isn't interested in bringing the Gospel to you.

At a recent meeting concerning the parishes and schools of North Tonawanda, the director of research and planning stated that North Tonawanda is not a "lucrative suburbia. It has its problems." Spoken more like a real estate broker than a religious of the Catholic Church. She doesn't seem to realize that these people have souls, too, just like their brothers and sisters in the more affluent areas of this diocese.

Frank Nardone


>Will a new building be next for art gallery?

Now that most of the initial deaccessioning dust appears to have settled -- although the remaining fallout will continue to contaminate Western New York's atmosphere for decades to come -- I wouldn't be at all surprised if the directors of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery were to announce plans to build a new, more appropriate structure to house its acquisitions.

One has to realize, after all, how embarrassing it must be to have to display a celebrated collection of modern and contemporary art in such an incongruous piece of architecture.

Maybe some investor could then come forward to move the existing neoclassical portion of the building to another location for revitalization, perhaps as a bridal photography studio, conference center, mausoleum or court building where future preservationists could file their lawsuits. If not, it would simply have to be "deconstructed" to make room for a more inviting edifice that will say unapologetically to even the casual passer-by: "Exciting present and future!" rather than "Obsolete, irrelevant past." An improbable scenario? Let's wait and see.

Stanley H. Cieslar


>Clinton isn't answer to nation's problems

In response to the June 7 letter criticizing the books coming out exposing the "real" Hillary Clinton: truth always wins. Clinton is the epitome of deception, just as her husband was and still is. All intelligent women are not dangerous, but some are. Never in the history of presidential elections has the losing party been so angry and bitter, even having the audacity to accuse President Bush of "stealing" the election after many recounts of the vote. How can anyone "steal" an election? We have never witnessed such disrespect and name calling against a sitting president.

Wake up, Clinton lovers. She is definitely not the answer to this country's many problems. If you elect her, you haven't seen anything yet, in spite of some great past Democratic presidents.

Geraldine Walsh


>Removal of damaged trees should be done in stages

Although the limbs have been carried away, the area is now beginning a new chapter in the October Storm saga that could be more disturbing. Arborists have recommended more than 12,000 trees be immediately cut down, including 8,000 in Amherst.

While some trees should be cut, there are problems incurred from a rapid removal. Experts agree that healthy urban forests require diversity of tree species and age. Because removed trees will be replaced with saplings of the same age, it can lead to "age monoculture," a detriment to a healthy forest. A more sensible approach would be to stagger the removal over a period of years and gradually rebuild the urban forest. Not only would this produce a healthier forest for the future, it would be more aesthetically pleasing for today's generation.

Consultants may argue that the trees slated for removal will soon die or become a hazard, but many of the trees do not present an immediate danger and still provide benefit. We should be careful and not underestimate nature's resiliency. Furthermore, judicious pruning can prove less costly than removal. Let's avoid a chain saw massacre and be prudent by taking the process slower.

Todd Miner
State College, Pa.

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