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Street vendors vital to fabric of city life

I went to primary school in New York City. Every year, as fall was turning to winter and cool air was upon us, there appeared on our school block "the pretzel man." This man had a small charcoal grill on a shopping cart and for 25 cents a few of us would share a warm, salty, golden pretzel. Could life get any better?

When school closed for the winter recess, my family often found itself in Rockefeller Center. My Dad always paused at a street vendor selling hot chestnuts. While we walked, we peeled the cracked chestnuts, took stock of the giant Christmas tree and watched the skaters below. With the sweet, hot, chewy chestnuts passing from our hands to our mouths the time passed heavenly.

Forty years later, I don't get to New York very often. I did, however, go this fall. On the way to the Museum of Modern Art, I had no time to stop for dinner. My friend and I decided to stop at a food truck. We got hot, fresh falafel. It was as good as any I've had. That Sunday there was a street fair outside our hotel with vendors on 51st Street. It seemed you could get anything there. On random streets, we passed Japanese clothing stands. They looked like giant portable ice cubes.

The street vendors play an integral part in the fabric of a city's life. They provide cultural diversity. They provide jobs and stimulate trade. Entrepreneurs often use them to develop bigger ideas. (Think Bruce Springsteen and Steve Jobs, who both had start-up businesses in their family's garages). These bigger ideas drive the economy. Support food trucks, support small businesses and support our American way of life.

Richard Steinberg

Buffalo

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'Cuban Five' were spies who deserved prison

Has anyone else noticed that articles written by anyone from the Western New York Peace Center are virtually always a defense of a communist or socialist cause? The latest example is Edward Cuddy's "Saga of the 'Cuban Five' is an American tragedy," in the Oct. 16 News. The article defends five Cuban "patriots" who have been imprisoned here since 2001 for gathering information on Cuban exiles in Miami. Most Americans call them "spies."

Cuddy argues that the five could not receive a fair trial in Miami, "a city seething with hostility," but that and other feeble objections to conviction were considered and dismissed by the court.

Where is Cuddy's sympathy for Cuban-Americans whose families have been held hostage for more than 50 years on an island that is a de facto prison? Apparently, it doesn't matter to him, either, that Fidel Castro allowed Soviet missiles aimed at the United States on Cuban soil, or that Castro emptied Cuba's gulags and mental institutions of thousands and dumped them on our shores.

Cuba has enslaved its populace through tyranny, separated families forever and, in the name of communist-style social and economic justice, condemned its citizens to lifelong poverty and misery. The real tragedy here is not the incarceration of five Cuban agents; it is the bondage of 11 million Cuban citizens in a totalitarian state. If Cuban-Americans are indeed "seething," it is for good reason.

Cuddy accuses the United States of "hypocrisy" and "monumental injustice" by comparing our pursuit of al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan to the five who he claims are simply trying to defend Cuba against American terrorists. This flawed argument of moral equivalency is a common trick used by the leftist Peace Center.

Jim Costa

Elma

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Stop the blame game and work together

Thanks to The News for the Oct. 9 Viewpoints article that argued against blaming the teachers for the educational difficulties we are currently faced with. Yes, I am an educator and have been for many years. I must say, I am very proud of my profession and have always worked with highly professional individuals who always have had the children's best interest in mind.

I believe our nation's government, whether it's local, state or federal, needs to take that advice and stop the "blame game." The division of the Democratic and Republican parties seems to be constantly evident. This can only lead to more unrest, economic problems and loss of faith in our elected politicians. When we continually hear about the division between the parties, disagreements and lack of unity, we can't help but wonder what will happen to our overtaxed state as well as our wonderful nation.

No wonder people are protesting. I'm surprised it took this long! As with education, we all need to work together, not against each other, for solutions. Maybe our government will learn this lesson, too, before it's too late. The blame game needs to stop.

Lori Mundis

Lancaster

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It's time we take care of America's problems

The country is going broke. In 2011, for the third year in a row, there was no cost of living increase for those who depend on Social Security. But billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars were given to foreign countries for aid. We all know this money will never be repaid.

Once again, this country is being big brother to the world, trying to solve other countries' problems. Do our leaders realize there are issues here that need to be solved? It's time to resolve the problems here at home first. Let the rest of the world take charge of its own problems.

Once again, gasoline prices are skyrocketing. I imagine at the end of the year, profits of the oil companies will be hundreds of percentage points higher. Our U.S. military is engaged in a third war zone. We need to fight crimes here, instead of in foreign countries. Let these countries fight their own battles.

In the last few elections, people wanted change. I say to them, "How do you like what you see now?"

Dennis Newman

Blasdell

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Obama lacks the skills needed to get job done

It should be clear to almost everyone by now that the neighborhood organizer, President Obama, was not well-qualified to be the leader of the civilized world, let alone the United States. The liberal press, the unions and radical opponents of our capitalistic system did not bother to ask, "Exactly what do you mean by change?"

The change Obama has envisioned is far different from what made this country a haven for successful businesses that provided employment to the generations of immigrants who populated America, and that made it the great nation and incubator of innovation and invention that has given this world some of its greatest benefits.

Obama has relied on "czars" for advice, some of them openly hostile to our American way of life. It is now incumbent on the voters who were duped into buying the mantra of "hope and change" to repudiate the one person who has created our deep troubles.

Frank A. Gugino Sr.

West Seneca