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Maid of the Mist is too important to lose

I have entertained dozens of international guests from Europe, South America, the Middle East, Russia and former USSR republics for more than 40 years, and a trip to the falls is understandably a highlight of their visit in Buffalo Niagara.

No trip to the falls would be complete without a ride on the Maid of the Mist, and anyone who has ever accompanied a first-time visitor on this boat trip remembers the awestruck face and unending praise for the wonder of Niagara Falls as seen from the deck of the Maid of the Mist.

Many of these visitors come to the United States on a single-entry visa, which does not allow them to leave the country for a visit to Niagara Falls, Ontario, attractions. It would be a great disappointment to them, and to me as their hostess, if they were unable to experience this famous ride beneath the falls. I hope the New York State Parks, Niagara Parks Commission and the Maid of the Mist owners can reach an agreement that maintains this impressive asset in the Buffalo Niagara tourism package.

Jill Ortner

Hamburg

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Get the facts straight about free cellphones

Current urban legends are not as chillingly satisfying as the old one about spider nests infesting the teased beehive hairdos of the 1960s. Now they are more often near-facts, exaggerated for outrage, and then associated with President Obama. Those who believe the canard that Obama is providing free cellphones to poor freeloaders would be well advised to refer to FactCheck.org or Snopes.com.

They would find that a program that contributes partially to the cost of cellphones or home phone installation for low-income individuals predates Obama's presidency. It pays for approximately one hour of service per month, and is paid for by SafeLink, which is funded by contributions from telecom companies. Cable "news," misinformed online comments and the neighborhood grapevine are not the most truthful sources of information on problems facing our divided society.

Janet M. Goodsell

Grand Island

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Marine scout snipers didn't mean to offend

As a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I was appalled to see the outcry on the scout snipers' use of an SS symbol. Scout snipers strike like lightning from afar. That is all that should be taken from the context of the use of this symbol. Like many other symbols associated with the evil of the Nazi movement, it was around long before the Nazis used it. If anyone saw that symbol as anything more than representing those brave Marines, that is not the Marines' problem but the problem of those who chose to misinterpret the symbol.

I see a double-standard here. If a teenager (remember, most of these Marines are not much older than high school age) decides to wear a T-shirt with a communist revolutionary on it, this is considered free speech and expression. But when Marines decide to use a symbol that unintentionally offends someone, they need to be censored?

Having served this country's military for more than 20 years, I understand that we represent the United States and surrender some of our constitutional rights to protect those of the American people. However, plain and simple, the men and women of the armed forces are serving in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. Can't we cut them some slack, for heaven's sake? Considering the amount of stress these young men and women are under, there is no need to add to it by having them worry that everything they do or say will offend someone.

War is a dirty business. It is the job of the military to kill our enemies -- let's get away from the sterile terms now applied, like "neutralize" -- and much of what is now considered offensive would have been applauded on Sept. 12, 2001. How horribly short the memories of many Americans are.

Daniel Dudziak

U.S. Army major, retired

Springville

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Forcing women to have invasive tests is wrong

A recent letter writer asked what "liberals" have against sonograms. The answer is nothing. What decent people have a problem with is transvaginal ultrasound administered regardless of the patient's or her doctor's consent. The procedure is invasive and medically unnecessary. The government has no business forcing a woman or any person to undergo this or any procedure against her or his will.

The protest against the proposal that large Catholic employers pay for contraception in employee health insurance plans was artfully framed as an argument against government coercion. The same groups outraged at such governmental overreach then should be voicing those concerns now. This is coerced vaginal penetration that under any other circumstance constitutes rape. Just the idea that women are somehow unable to comprehend what pregnancy means unless they undergo this procedure is offensive, demeaning and bigoted.

Caroline Barry

Buffalo

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NYPD monitoring sets a dangerous precedent

This is in response to the article about the Muslim students at the University at Buffalo being monitored by the New York Police Department. If this isn't government intrusion into our personal lives, then what is? The students unknowingly were being watched by authorities every day, although they had not been accused of any wrongdoing or crime. Where do we the people give the government the right to invade our privacy and track our daily actions, without first getting a warrant from the judiciary branch? The police even went so far as to note in their reports how many times these students prayed daily.

The issue of government overstepping its constitutional authority goes largely unnoticed today. The Patriot Act, signed into law in 2001 and extended last year, is the king of them all, giving government permission to search property without owner permission, and giving law enforcement permission to search telephones, emails and personal records without a court order. This is a dangerous precedent we are slowly allowing to be set. How can we slowly give away our personal liberties and not fight back? Does the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizures, no longer exist?

We won a revolution because our unalienable rights were being intruded on by the British monarchy. Our Constitution's 10th Amendment states that powers not granted to the government are reserved to the people. This individual sovereignty is slowly evaporating back into government hands, and it's a scary thing. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were crafted to stop this type of tyranny.

Ryan Martineau

Niagara Falls