Soldiers' remains must be treated with respect

It was deeply troubling to learn that hundreds of our brave soldiers who gave all by giving their lives for our freedom and country were given no respect by "disposing" of their remains with the common garbage. The thought is appalling and the Air Force and whomever authorized this practice should be ashamed. The responsible individuals should all be dismissed from top to bottom. This was definitely an order that should not have been carried out, no matter who ordered it, and someone along the chain of command, right down to the lowest soldier, should have stepped up and said something to prevent it.

Those remains were entrusted to the Air Force to be treated with respect and interred with the full respect that is due to our bravest U.S. soldiers who sacrificed their lives for us. I truly hope that steps are taken to give soldiers, both living and dead, the high degree of respect that they truly deserve. God bless all of our soldiers. You are truly our heroes!

Richard Karalus



Require every retiree to pay state income tax

Albany is providing modest tax cuts for 4.4 million low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. A couple with a taxable income of $80,000, for example, will see a 2012 tax bill of $5,160, or a savings of $320. Retirees in the private sector who have taxable pensions of $80,000 will also have a tax liability of $5,160. Government employees and politicians who collect the same amount in their pensions are exempt from New York State income tax. They have no tax liability.

In order for the state to erase part of the increasing budget deficit, civil service retirees should have the same tax structure as everyone else in the state.

James Boguslawski



Catholics in Africa embrace core beliefs

Back in the 1930s, our geography books depicted the continent of Africa as being uncivilized, with natives scantily clad, faces grotesquely painted, holding long spears as ready for war. Yes, there were articles relating a handful of white missionaries who wanted to convert the pagans. Africa was referred to as "The Dark Continent."

Recently, very early on a Sunday morning, I watched on the Eternal Word Television Network as Pope Benedict XVI offered Holy Mass in Latin. His homily to the thousands of Benin natives was delivered in French, Portuguese and English. At the Intercession, a long line of colorfully dressed natives presented him with a vast array of Benin products while choirs sang and played native instruments. Later, hundreds of vested native clergy offered Holy Communion to a very reverent congregation.

The pope's message to Africa was to inculcate tolerance, but without compromising the church's core beliefs. It is a message we should all embrace. Western society expects -- no, demands -- tolerance and acceptance without limits. We have lost sight of who we really are. The Catholic Church began with a message that society at large did not want to hear, and our forefathers bled for it.

If darkness is the absence of light, then Africa, it seems, isn't a "Dark Continent" after all.

Grace E. Herrmann



Investing in state parks will give economy a boost

Included in last week's flurry of economic initiatives from the Cuomo administration was some good news for New York State's park system. The $1 billion Infrastructure Investment Act, to address the state's aging infrastructure, includes park rehabilitation. While the details are yet to come, Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) applauds the administration and legislative leaders for recognizing the strong connection between economic vitality and outdoor recreation.

PTNY's 2009 report, "The NYS Park System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State," showed that the system annually contributes $1.9 billion to the state's economy -- a 5-to-1 return on investment.

Despite New York's legacy as a leader in parks and conservation and our park system's importance to the economy, our state parks remain chronically underfunded. While the most visible threat to the park system came in 2010, when 88 parks and historic sites were threatened with closure, the real long-term threat may very well be the system's crumbling infrastructure.

The Parks Agency estimates the capital backlog at $1 billion. The Niagara region alone faces nearly $138 million in infrastructure needs. This includes critical safety repairs such as rehabilitating water, sewage, storm-water and electrical systems in Niagara Falls State Park and rehabilitating campground facilities at Evangola State Park.

Investing in our state park system must be a part of any effort to make New York's economy sustainable and create jobs. The Infrastructure Investment Act is a positive first step in addressing this backlog and ensuring New York's parks and conservation legacy remains intact.

Robin Dropkin

Executive Director

Parks & Trails New York


Buffalo should repair its damaged sidewalks

After returning from a brief walk, I was dismayed to see the horrendous condition of our city sidewalks. I am agile enough to dodge the pitfalls of holes, patches and, worse, the raised walks caused by city trees and/or neglect. I can imagine how difficult it must be for the elderly, impaired or handicapped. You see many older citizens walking in the curb lane in the street because that is the only level ground they can find.

How many times have you watched as those with less than athletic ability slowly amble along the sidewalks? If they fall and break a hip, they're in serious trouble. It's sad to see because this is often their only means of fresh air, exercise or a trip to the store. What will it take for the city to return to its long-forgotten practice of organized repair or replacement?

If it falls on the homeowner to be responsible, then we need the city to provide us with an inspection of the walks. Just take a minute to walk down Standish or Blantyre or most any street to see some areas six inches or greater in the height of the walks where tree roots have damaged them. This makes shoveling or pushing strollers almost impossible. These conditions have existed for years!

I would hope the mayor and his councilmen have some sort of concern for the citizens they represent. Our councilman has more than enough time for festival signs and lighting, and other "show and tell" promos, but not enough for the basic types of responsibilities he and his fellow councilmen are elected to provide. Enough is enough -- before someone gets injured, sued or worse, get the job done.

Peter Hewett