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Good Morning, Buffalo

Exploring the U.S.-Canada border, where relative calm belies a critical mission
With all the news coverage of what’s happening at the southern border, I’ve spent the last couple of years in Buffalo, seeing Canada across the water every day and wondering what’s actually happening here on the northern border. Where are the stress points? The vulnerabilities? And we know it’s open, but just how porous is it?
News Chief Photographer Derek Gee and I sat down in our office one afternoon and used a satellite map to plan out a trip that would take us across large expanses of the New York-Canada border, which is 445 miles long. Before we left, I set up a meeting with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, Chief Officer Aaron Bowker, who oversees public affairs for the Buffalo Field Office. We wanted to ask for some behind-the-scenes access at different ports of entry and, on a broader note, give him a heads up on our travel — just in case local folks in sparsely populated areas got nervous about a couple of strangers walking around with a notebook and big cameras.
The meeting went well. Bowker offered suggestions on places and people to visit, and he later got in touch with an offer: He would take the trip with us to ensure we got a deep behind-the-scenes view. Outside government facilities, he would give us space. Inside, he would give us access, so long as we agreed to not share any information we came upon that could compromise ongoing investigations or national security.
Afterward, I asked Bowker why CBP provided us this access. He told me it was part of an ongoing effort by the Buffalo Field Office to “engage with media more frequently in an effort to pull back the curtain on CBP operations” and be as transparent as possible in their role as public servants.
“Obviously, we deal with national security and sensitive investigations that we can’t discuss, but we can still give an overview of our mission and our successes that shows the public what we do,” he said. “There is no reason to hide what we do, but there is great value in explaining why we do things.”
The first story in the resulting series published today. Stay tuned for the rest.
— Tim O’Shei
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WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
Not so fast on bail reform, law enforcement says: Joining law enforcement agencies in simultaneous news conferences across the state, Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour and other local law enforcement officials called for a delay in the implementation of laws that would end cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and speed up the timeline for prosecutors to turn over evidence.
With Tonawanda Coke soil sampling finished, public health questions remain: The arsenic, mercury and other toxins found in the ground on most properties surrounding the former Tonawanda Coke plant generally are at safe levels, according to the scientist leading a court-ordered soil study. But two rounds of collecting and testing soil samples in the Town of Tonawanda, City of Tonawanda and Grand Island have identified areas of elevated contamination that may need to be cleaned up, though they don't present an immediate danger to the public.
It's a short shopping season this holiday. Does it really matter?: Writes the Discount Diva: "You've probably heard that this year's shopping season has six fewer days than last year's, because Thanksgiving falls so late in November. But what does that mean for you, the consumer? Is it really going to affect the way you shop, or how retailers structure their sales?"
Why Buffalo Niagara incomes are lagging: A tight job market and a steadily growing economy should be good news for workers. It is, when it comes to job security, but it hasn't paid off on payday. New data from the federal government shows how little local workers have been able to cash in on the good economic times.
Thanks, heartbreak and awe: Readers' memories of the November 2014 storm: Five years ago, we were in the crux of documenting the storm — taking photographs, writing stories, compiling snow tallies and even gathering memes. Today, we're still collecting and sharing your stories.
(Got a news tip? Email citydesk@buffnews.com.)
FOOD & DRINK
Ayurveda brings a healthy warmth to the holidays: In summer, eat and drink cold things. In winter, eat and drink warm things. Ayurvedic living can get complicated, but its dietary recommendation boil down to that – and provide a healthy perspective on how to approach holiday eating, routine and more.
POLITICS
State panel closing in on new taxpayer-funded campaign finance system: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers last spring punted on an effort they began to create a publicly financed campaign system for state candidates in New York. Instead, they turned the work over to a commission – whose members they appointed – to do the job. The clock runs out on that task next week.
BILLS
Vic Fangio will test Josh Allen's patience: The Denver Broncos are 3-7, but it's not because of their defense. Head coach Vic Fangio, long admired for his defensive coaching abilities, has the Broncos ranked fourth in yards allowed and fifth vs. the pass. Denver is going to provide Josh Allen and the offense with a big test after they broke out in a 37-20 win Sunday.
(For more Bills news, sign up here for the [BN] Blitz newsletter.)
SABRES
Sabres' loss to Bruins reveals winning formula: As Lance Lysowski wrote from TD Garden, where the Sabres lost to the first-place Bruins: "The Sabres did not allow a shot on goal for the first 12:11 of play Thursday night, snapped their 0-for-22 power-play drought and showed the relentlessness that made them the top team in the National Hockey League for the season's first month." Sometimes luck just isn't on your side.
(For more Sabres news, sign up here for the [BN] Hockey newsletter.)
WITH YOUR MORNING COFFEE 
No, you don't have to do all your Christmas shopping on Amazon. The Buffalo area is booming with options for buying handmade works of area artisans – and the venues themselves are pretty cool. As mentioned in Gusto's weekend roundup, the Wurlitzer Building and the Kenan House Mansion can be easily appreciated this weekend, with markets running for two and three days, respectively. The "buy local" trend isn't forgotten.
This next one's for the fans of the Thunderdome, for those hockey lovers who take their rivalries to tabletop, instead of the rink. Buffalo is getting its very own Table Hockey Festival serving the large community of bubble hockey players who've gone tourney-less year after year. As Buffalo Rising reports, dozens of teams from the U.S. and Canada will head to RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St., this weekend to compete for bubble hockey glory.
If you're planning to use this weekend to get a jump start on Thanksgiving meal prep, consider this useful bit of information. Turkey day is the peak day for home cooking fires, to the tune of a 238% increase, according to WIVB. Things as simple as staying in the kitchen while cooking and keeping your stovetop organized can help reduce fire potential.
(Have feedback on the Good Morning, Buffalo newsletter? Email feedback@buffnews.com.)
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