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Everybody's Column

Habitat destruction is?biggest threat to birds

To set the record straight regarding feral cats and the decimation of the bird population, the sole responsibility to this problem relies on the people who are not responsible enough to spay and neuter their cats. There are millions of "domestic" cats that roam freely outside, which, if they are a pet, should never be allowed. They are contributing to unwanted pregnancies with other outside "domestic" and feral cats that are also not "fixed."

First, it should be stated that the single most significant threat to bird populations is habitat destruction, in all of its forms and with all of its causes.

Window strikes are estimated to kill up to 976 million birds per year. Millions of houses and buildings, with their billions of windows, are the most significant threat to birds. Birds see the natural habitat mirrored in the glass and fly directly into the window, causing injury and, in 50 percent or more of the cases, death. (Sibley Guides)

Domestic and feral cats are estimated to kill up to 500 million birds per year.

There are plenty of organizations that have low-cost spay/neuter programs for domestic and feral cats. Ferals can be trapped, neutered (or spayed), and then rereleased (TNR) back to where they came from. Euthanasia should not be an option. If the reproduction of cats is decreased, so will the number of birds being hunted for food.

The indirect solution for the increase of the bird population lies with us.

Karen Smith

Clarence Center


Catholic schools must?reject high-stakes tests

With the recent widespread negative publicity of the New York State assessments, I am extremely disappointed that some Catholic schools have succumbed to this madness. What happened to the separation of church and state? Most parents who choose Catholic education for their children choose it because it provides a quality religious education without the ties of the state's claws.

However, now some Catholic schools in Buffalo have willingly entered into the insanity of the state testing. Even though private schools are not mandated to administer these assessments, principals have opted to give the tests for two reasons. First they are given money if they administer the tests to third- to eighth-graders. Secondly, they use the rankings that are published by The News as a marketing tool in order to get their enrollment up. In other words, children are being used as pawns for the benefit of increasing enrollment and monetary gains.

The public needs to know that higher rankings does not equal better education. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite. Schools that rank higher most likely eliminated everything that is important to students and spend months preparing for these tests. Teachers in these schools do not teach in the ways that they know are best for children.

Creative lessons that involve critical thinking that were once a part of Catholic education are now replaced with teaching to the test. The curriculum has been narrowed, excluding not only core subjects such as science, but religion! The distinguishing characteristics of Catholic schools such as the development of the whole child — spiritually, intellectually, morally and socially — are no longer the focus. The focus has become practicing for state assessments in order to show that their scores are higher than other schools.

Ironically, they are essentially telling the public that they spend an excessive amount of time on teaching to the test instead of providing quality learning experiences. Producing higher test scores does not put the children's best interest at the forefront. The only thing worse than not knowing that your child's school teaches to the test is knowing and accepting it! Be selective and informed. If you are careful, you can find a special Catholic school that still carries out the true mission of Catholic education where school leaders are guided by Jesus, not the state.

Grace Provenzo

Catholic school teacher, 26 years



Wind turbines in lakes?step in right direction

I'm writing in response to the recent letter writer who argues against placing wind turbines in the Great Lakes. Her anti-wind arguments are groundless, and they will endanger the lakes by prolonging our use of fossil fuel- and nuclear-generated electricity.

Yes, some pollutants are buried in the muck at the bottoms of the lakes, but those pollutants are there because they have, by one means or another (such as absorption to clay particles) become insoluble. Some of those clay particles will indeed be stirred up from the bottom by wind turbine installation, but they'll quickly settle again once the installation is complete.

Then the lake will be graced by as many vertical structures, rising from bottom to surface, as wind turbines installed. Aquatic life thrives around such vertical surfaces. As anyone who has fished off piers knows, the more vertical surfaces in the vicinity, the greater the abundance of aquatic plants, which are eaten by little fish, which are then eaten by the bigger fish we like to catch. Instead of disrupting "our fishing and recreational industry," wind turbines will enhance it!

She also suggests that wind energy is not affordable. Indeed, there are high capital costs involved in installing wind turbines, but, once installed, the turbines run for decades with minimal maintenance costs and no fuel costs. The high capital costs are largely returned to the local economy, where they generate jobs.

Is she suggesting that we continue generating electricity with coal (a known heavy polluter of the lakes), gas (which contributes to the global warming that will eventually evaporate our lakes), or nuclear energy (West Valley drains into Lake Erie)? Surely wind energy and other renewables are a vastly preferable alternative!

Joel Huberman



Contraceptive coverage?hurts more than it helps

The Obama administration's mandated funding for contraceptives as part of health care is troubling for reasons wholly separate from moral and religious concerns.

As a campaign gimmick, the administration's mandated funding for contraceptives will be welcomed by many young Americans. Ominously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that "Estimates suggest that even though young people aged 15–24 years represent only 25 percent of the sexually experienced population, they acquire nearly half of all new STDs."

Given this reality, one must ask what President Obama was thinking when he mandated this contraception coverage.

Unhappily, many oral contraceptives increase the risk of contracting some bacterial and viral infections. Additionally spermicides are not protective against some bacterial infections and increase the risk of HIV. The IUD increases risk of PID and is not protective against viral infections.

As harmful as some STDs are to men, they pose even greater health hazards to women. Looked at from this perspective, oral contraceptive and abortifacient coverage mandated by the Obama administration amounts to a federally funded mass transit system for the spread of venereal diseases that endangers the health of women and drives up health care costs.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.