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Let's honor our military on Armed Forces Day

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, a fitting time to honor all military men, women and veterans by playing taps in Arlington National Cemetery with 200 buglers from around the country, including Charles Raven of Sherman in Chautauqua County. This special occasion will mark the 150th anniversary of the treasured bugle song taps, and is a good time to remind Western New Yorkers that it was authored and first played by a Chautauqua County Union soldier, Oliver Willcox Norton.

Norton was born in Angelica, and his family later moved to the Sherman area, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. Norton attended school in Sherman where his sister, Elizabeth, was part of a reading group that founded the Sherman Free Library.

Norton enlisted in Erie, Pa., in 1861 and later served with the 17th New York Volunteers in the Union Army. As regimental bugler, he came up with the now-famous 24 bugle notes known as taps, while experimenting with various bugle note combinations.

Norton did not read music, and relied on his ear to compose the musical sounds he wanted. His regimental commander heard Norton's bugle experiment and asked Norton to play these notes at the burial of fallen soldiers. And that is how taps came to us from the bugle of a soldier from Chautauqua County.

Philip J. Brunskill



Everyone should wear a helmet when biking

It was nice to see bicyclists wearing helmets in a recent fitness article in The News. In contrast, it was wrong of The News to publish an article about buying bicycles that featured a photo of a young woman riding without a helmet.

Very few bike riders in Buffalo wear helmets. It is illegal in New York State for anyone under the age of 14 to ride without a helmet, but it seems that local police do not enforce this. As a physician, I have cared for many people with head injuries that may have been prevented by helmet use. The News should be more careful about the photos it selects because people are influenced by the media.

Dave Shapiro, M.D.



City Honors focuses too much on test scores

As a City Honors alumnus, I am shocked at the media coverage of City Honors' recent ranking as the 23rd best high school in the country by U.S. News and World Report. If a city the size of Buffalo consistently places all of its "smartest" students in one school, we should be shocked if that school was not one of the top in the country.

The real conversation we should be having is why no other Buffalo public school is listed in the entire top 2,000 high schools ranked. Even in Erie County, the next highest school ranked was Iroquois High School in Elma, at 359. Why do we focus on the one outlier and how "fantastic" it is, instead of focusing on the consistent underperformance of the remainder of the Buffalo schools?

The reality is that a City Honors education prepares you for college, and college alone. Students are hammered with the idea that you go to high school, you go to college and that's the path. In truth, for many students this can be alienating. Two close friends of mine chose to join the military and, in making this decision, felt alienated from their friends. We had never been told this was a valid option.

Even those who end up attending a four-year college often find themselves unprepared and out-of-place and transfer to another school or just drop out. They had been told how incredibly "smart" they were all their lives and when faced with professors who don't cater to the myth of City Honors students' genius, they falter.

When it comes down to it, City Honors is simply a school that exemplifies the No Child Left Behind philosophy of education -- test scores, test scores, test scores.

Jack Kavanaugh



Home visiting programs help reduce child abuse

The recent article, "Early intervention reduces the chance of violence," is on point. The scope of child abuse and neglect is shocking. The most recent data from 2010 show that 77,000 children were abused or neglected in New York State, enough to fill Madison Square Garden nearly four times. At least 114 of these children died. In Erie County, 3,855 children were confirmed victims of abuse and neglect.

In addition to the unspeakable injuries, child abuse leads to increased crime. Not every abused child grows up to be a criminal, but survivors of abuse and neglect are nearly twice as likely to commit crimes as juveniles and to act violently as adults.

We can do more to prevent child abuse and neglect. New York State law enforcement released a report last month highlighting the research on what works. The report, Breaking the Cycle: How Home Visiting Can Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect and Prevent Crime In New York State, calls for the expansion of home visiting programs such as Erie County's Healthy Families Program and the Nurse-Family Partnership.

Voluntary home visiting programs use trained professionals to help at-risk families learn how to raise safe and healthy children and break patterns of abusive behavior. The Nurse-Family Partnership program, for example, cut child abuse and neglect by 48 percent. At age 15, children in the program were 59 percent less likely to be arrested, and the moms in the program were 61 percent less likely to be arrested. For every family served, the Nurse-Family Partnership program saves $13,000, calculated through a number of different factors including crime reduction, child abuse and neglect reduction, reduced grade school retention, special education and reduced health care costs. Unfortunately, these programs only reach 10 percent of the eligible families statewide.

Home visitation programs are essential to protect children from abuse and neglect and cut crime in the long run. Our youngest citizens are counting on us.

Tim Howard

Sheriff of Erie County


Abundant water supply key to Unifrax move

The history of industrial development over the past two decades within the Buffalo Niagara region is one that has been well served by the May 13 News account of the expansion of the Unifrax Corp. in the Town of Tonawanda's Fire Tower Drive Industrial Park.

One intrinsic aspect, and the paramount reason that motivated Unifrax's decision to make this move, deserves to be mentioned: its requirement for abundant water in manufacturing ceramic fibers used for many products, including automotive catalytic converters.

Tonawanda's own water supply system and low-cost rate, plus the newly built enhanced waste water treatment system, met this need.

Allan Freedman

Former executive director, Town

of Tonawanda Development Corp.