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Everybody's Column

>Big truck plaza near bridge will endanger public health

President Obama's commitment to reform the nation's health care system presents a challenge to Democratic lawmakers: eventually they will have to choose sides -- either they stand with the people or stand with the corporations.

Rep. Brian Higgins supports a proposal to build a massive truck plaza inside one of the poorest and most racially diverse communities in his congressional district -- the lower West Side, home to the youngest population in Buffalo.

Medical studies confirm that the overall prevalence of asthma along the Peace Bridge corridor is three times higher than the national average. Recently, a neighborhood pharmacist received a one-week shipment of 170 Ventolin asthma inhalers. At $42 retail per inhaler, or $370,000 annually for one medication at one pharmacy, I took pause. The public health cost to this region for treating the asthma epidemic on the West Side is estimated at $70 million a year. A majority of that is billed to Medicaid or other government-sponsored programs.

Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown, both Democrats, are eager to build a bigger truck plaza but in doing so will have to turn a blind eye to escalating the associated health risks. How will their position impact a government public option plan for those who cannot afford private health insurance?

Kathleen Mecca


>Promoting creationism weakens math, science

Predictably, Gerry Rising's article on the state of math and science education in the United States (Sept. 6) is right on target. I think that one finger of responsibility for this educational lag can be pointed at fundamentalist religion -- those dogmatic Bible-literal folks who not only withhold their children from educational reality, but propel them along a path that leads to the Creation Institute and the establishment of a creationist museum. Such ideological fantasies are supported solely by belief that may not be challenged. Their mantra is, "I believe, therefore it is so."

Modern-day truth demands substantiated, repeatable evidence in support of any hypothesis. Religion is not immune from such challenge. It does not have a divine pass on the rigors of scientific discovery that are imposed on other modern advancements.

Charles P. Mowatt


>Health care system offers little protection to anyone

I wonder why people lobby directly against their own self-interest? I can only assume that they are ill-informed or that they listen too closely to hate radio. The people who have the most to lose in holding on to the status quo in the health debate are families in the top 1 percent of income. Take a family with an income of $200,000 per year. One health crisis under the present system could plunge them into economic collapse. You can imagine how disastrous the status quo could be to the rest of the middle class.

All the health provider has to say is that a family member needs an experimental surgery or medication, which of course in the fine print is not covered by the company. And if dad loses his job or wants to change his job and has a pre-existing condition, he can't get health insurance. Each health provider has bean-counters who earn bonuses for rejecting as many claims as possible. Isn't it ironic that these bean-counters have so much say in life-and-death matters? Would they be the equivalent of "death panels"?

The only solution for dad, if he is lucky, would be to go on a government plan like Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, the plan for federal workers and Congress or military insurance. I am not defending these plans, they have flaws as well. But they certainly offer more security to the top 1 percent and for the rest of the middle class than the status quo does.

John W. Kowalski


>It's nice to see firm honor fallen Marine

As a former employee of the Pepsi Bottling Group, I would say that it made a first-class gesture to a fallen hero. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Aaron M. Kenefick was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan last week. It was very special to see the main flag at half mast and the other flags in front of the building and the banner honoring our hero. Aaron's father, Donald, has been an employee for more than 30 years with the Pepsi Bottling Group. Donald and his family should be very proud of the gesture and of their son. May he rest in peace.

Thomas Blaszkiewicz


>Higgins right to support farm workers legislation

On behalf of the New York apple industry, I am grateful for the recent commitment of support from Rep. Brian Higgins on the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act, which is currently pending in Congress.

The AgJOBS bill, introduced last spring, specifically addresses farm labor issues in our state, allowing farmers like me to continue to employ guest workers. Without it, consumers can expect more imports and less local food production.

Our industry wholly depends on a migrant labor force to harvest apples in the fall. These migrant laborers have been coming to our orchards for decades, performing work that local labor is otherwise unwilling or unavailable to do.

Higgins is a crucial supporter for this desperately needed legislation.

Jim Allen
President, New York Apple Association


>Kadet is better choice for county comptroller

Remember when the county comptroller's office was led by Alfreda Slominski? She was the watchdog for our tax dollars. Now the office is a joke led by a young politician named Mark Poloncarz who must think his name gives him the duty to poll on cars in parking spaces in the garage and nearby streets. It is not that amusing to the taxpayers. He wastes our tax dollars.

Fortunately, an independent candidate named Phil Kadet has come forward with unmatched qualifications and professional experiences so superior that even past county executives called upon him to audit the county's finances. Kadet will focus on the protection and wise expenditures of our tax dollars. There is real hope for the comptroller's office.

Marian M. Gray


>Writer has an odd view of definition of torture

It's great to see the State Legislature is trying to increase the punishment for child torture to life in prison. But it's unfortunate that -- according to a recent letter writer -- as long as the perpetrator "only" waterboards the child, or uses a drill or gun to threaten death or threaten to rape and kill his family, the old sentencing rules will still apply.

Michael Barrows

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