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Defense Authorization Act violates the Constitution

I think George Orwell and the Founding Fathers just simultaneously rolled in their respective graves. A clear violation of our constitutional and basic human rights is being proposed and looks like it is on its way to passing.

The Defense Authorization Act, or as it should be titled, "1984," is currently circulating through Congress and has a provision in it that will essentially allow the president and executive branch to indefinitely detain anyone without a trial, including American citizens. The wording of the bill allows the military to detain anyone considered a terrorist, but it is intentionally very loose with its definition of a terrorist so as to give the president an exponentially greater amount of power.

While the bill says that American citizens aren't subject to the detainment, it also authorizes the ability to revoke the citizenship of any American suspected of terrorist activity, without clearly defining terrorist activity. This loose wording gives the government the exceptional power to single out people who oppose any action of government, classify them as terrorists and indefinitely detain them without any hope of a trial. Dissenters beware -- free speech may no longer be in effect.

I can only hope that this bill doesn't pass, or that President Obama vetoes it, or that someone takes this to the courts to negate this blatant violation of the Constitution. I also praise the barely bipartisan effort (34 Democrats, two Republicans, one Independent) in the Senate to revise the detainment provision. However, I fear for them as well, since they might be detained soon for speaking out against government.

Ian Giles

Collins Center

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How can autoworkers criticize the president?

I am always taken aback when I see autoworkers with scathing remarks about President Obama. He almost single-handedly saved the auto industry and the thousands of jobs connected to it. Of course, standing on principle, I am sure they would give up their paychecks to see Obama voted out of office in November.

Frederick Serley

Tonawanda

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Reflect on the goals of Occupy movement

During the holidays, as we remember the virtue of charity, perhaps we could take a few moments to reflect on the Occupy movement from the perspective of community. The activists in Niagara Square might easily be your neighbors, your children, your parents, your co-workers, your bank teller, your librarian. Many are employed, even if only part time, and they are finding a voice in our local community because their voices have not been heard by our government as wealthy special interest groups and corporate lobbying have taken over the policy-making in our country, leaving the people behind.

Our future as a country does not lie in how much money we make or the things we can buy. It lies in changing the foundational ethics that drive how we treat each other, locally and nationally. While capitalism can be a great thing, our economic system should be a fair one. Right now, if you look at the statistics, it's not. Things may not improve until we, as a nation, seriously begin to consider how we are all connected. And, with its self-contained encampments, this interdependence might be what the greater Occupy movement can teach us.

Underneath all of its slogans, chants and tents, Occupy is largely about remembering how to help one another, how to treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated, how to care about our country and each other. And this holiday season, perhaps we can all be inspired, if not to directly support Occupy Buffalo, at least to educate ourselves more about the issues our country faces such as poverty, growing income inequality, unemployment, the foreclosure crisis and where all those record-breaking corporate profits are really going. Then, armed with knowledge, we can begin to enact small positive changes wherever we can. Peace.

Heather A. Hartel

Lockport

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Future of Main Street is not cars, it's people

On what grounds can The News continue to support the notion that restoring the automobile to Main Street is money well spent? Was it able to verify which of the few existing businesses in the 700 block of Main have benefited from the taxpayer expense well into the millions of dollars? Did it notice that many buildings there are still vacant?

News editorials on the matter have routinely dismissed the significant problems regarding the subway entrance in the 600 block without comment and have accepted the loss of the Theater District station as collateral damage.

While outlandish expenditures under the guise of social benefit by our government representatives can be dismissed as politics as usual, one would hope that The News would maintain a higher standard. If The News really cares about the future of downtown Buffalo, it would research this issue in depth and not base its position on the 20-year-old misconception that the pedestrian mall killed downtown.

The new reality is that many people now desire to live downtown. Main Street can supply that needed space with modern lofts that could be developed if incentives were available. Spend the money there. The maligned pedestrian mall with redesigned green space could provide an attractive gathering place for residents, diners, theatergoers and tourists. I don't think those folks will miss the noise, dirt and automobile fumes at all. The mall was a great idea whose time has come. Repeat after me, "The future of downtown Main Street is people, not cars."

Michael J. Zobel Jr.

Eggertsville

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Think before agreeing to a reduced pension

On Dec. 12, my husband would have been 74 years old. He died on Jan. 8 of this year. This is the first birthday that we have been apart in 43 years. This is also the first Christmas apart. Five years ago, I retired from Kaleida Health after 18 years to be able to care for him. He had his own private-duty nurse -- me. Financially it has been difficult, but I would not give up the extra time for the world.

Upon retiring, I signed a pension agreement for a lesser amount, about 10 percent, so he could have it if I died suddenly. At the time I did not know it could never be changed if circumstances changed. I am writing to warn all others who may be retiring. He is no longer with me but I still have to receive a lesser pension than I earned. In 10 years this amounts to around $8,000. All pensions appear to be structured this way, but no one will tell me why. It is a forced gamble -- who will die first? My "decision" was made from my heart, not my head. To their credit and mine, I am receiving help from my children as they are able.

Bonnie Beitel

East Amherst