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Everybody's column

Consider becoming living kidney donor

Today is National Census Day, when our federal government will be counting its residents to better allocate public resources. Knowing how many we are is basic to understanding who we are and what we need. April is also National Donate Life Month -- a good time to ask every American to be counted as an organ donor after death, and to consider living kidney donation, which is today's best treatment for kidney failure.

Among the Americans who will be counted in this census, 26 million have chronic kidney disease and more than 80,000 are waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant. These are family members, co-workers, the guy at your gym. While the number of people who need dialysis grows each year, the number of living kidney donors has declined from an all-time high of 6,647 donors in 2004 to fewer than 6,000 last year. Be the one to make a difference. Consider becoming a living kidney donor.

As part of the National Kidney Foundation's new Living Donor Council, I hope to help remove barriers to donation, expand the resources available to potential donors and possibly inspire a few others to be counted as Americans who care enough to consider donation. Learn more at www.kidney.org.

Traci Krist

Sardinia

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Require prior approval on health premium hikes

Thanks to The News for its fair reporting in the March 28 article "Curb on health insurers" about the existing state law of "file and use." Currently health insurers' premium increases do not need the prior approval of the New York State Insurance Department.

There are bills pending in the State Senate and Assembly requiring prior approval by the Insurance Department of health insurance premium rate hikes, and scrapping file and use, which has been in effect since October 1994, in the case of for-profit insurers, and January 1996, in the case of non-profit insurers.

The bills also increase the minimum loss ratio -- that part of the premium insurers need to use toward patient costs as opposed to administrative costs -- to 85 percent.

In February, I wrote to my state representatives, both of whom are on their respective insurance committees, asking where they stand on file and use. I've yet to get a reply.

Al Kane

West Seneca

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Many questions remain on hydraulic fracturing

Brad Gill's flippant response to questions surrounding hydro-fracking in New York make it clear that New Yorkers should be wary. (March 22 Another Voice, "Hydraulic fracturing issues are already answered.) Contrary to what Gill would have us believe, New York is not ready for rapid hydro-fracking industrialization. The State Department of Environmental Conservation's supplemental generic environmental impact statement is seriously flawed and should be withdrawn.

New York doesn't have the capacity to deal with large quantities of toxic wastewater from hydro-fracking and there is not a clear mechanism for holding energy companies accountable. Falsely claiming that big oil and gas are properly regulated would be laughable if the situation weren't so serious. Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, including fracking fluid exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency's Underground Injection Control program. Gas industry exemptions include the Clean Air and Water Acts.

Big oil and gas care only about their bottom line. It's up to the people of New York to prevent exploitation of our natural resources and communities and prevent another legacy of industrial pollution. So no, the questions are not answered. Until we are sure that big oil and gas will respect the people, air, land and water of New York, hydro-fracking should not be allowed.

Brian P. Smith

WNY Program Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment

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NFTA should avoid cutbacks in service

As I understand it, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is proposing major changes to its routes for September. I hope it takes into account the many working poor in the City of Buffalo and elsewhere who rely on the bus system to get to their jobs at suburban malls, medical establishments, entertainment venues and many other businesses. Similarly, suburban residents rely on the system to get to their jobs in the city.

As a bus rider, I am hearing from many who are anxious about these proposed changes. In these hard economic times, the NFTA should avoid doing any cutbacks in service that would add to the number of unemployed and underemployed. As Buffalo's leading newspaper, I hope The News will report on the human consequences of these proposals.

Tom Gadra

Buffalo

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Health care reform is step in right direction

The health care vote by the U.S. House of Representatives takes a historic step on the path of American history that began with Social Security and continued with Medicare. Comprehensive health care reform will begin to undo decades of neglect and inaction that have left millions of American uninsured and at risk.

The lack of adequate health insurance and rising costs threaten everyone. Passage of this legislation greatly expands coverage to include millions more Americans, protects the coverage that currently delivers care to most, reduces costs over the long term and accomplishes these goals at a reasonable cost.

We commend our elected representatives for having the courage to do what needs to be done to confront our country's health care crisis. The League of Women Voters congratulates the House leadership on a closely fought victory. It has taken the critical step in dealing with the health care crisis. Many more Americans will be able to see a new and much more promising future.

Margaret Brunson

Co-President, League of Women Voters, Buffalo/Niagara

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People who behave don't get sent to jail

I just read Donn Esmonde's column in the March 26 News about "Mr. Solid Citizen" getting sent to the Erie County Holding Center. Does Esmonde really think that anyone could end up in jail? Personally, I would not give the title "solid citizen" to anyone who gives the middle finger to the police, whatever the reason.

I doubt Esmonde was at the scene and can vouch for the validity of the whole story. The man had been drinking. Other details may have been left out by this "solid citizen." Behave and you will stay out of jail. Seems pretty simple to me. His trying to demonize either the Transit Police or the Holding Center as a result of this incident is ridiculous.

David Bystrak

West Seneca

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