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Remember all who gave ?their lives in service

Every year on Memorial Day, I remember my neighbor and great childhood friend, Paul. We first met in 1959 when he came over to inspect all the neat stuff being unloaded from our moving van. Paul and I were inseparable. We did everything together. Things like throwing snowballs at trucks (until the cops came and chased us) and catching little garter snakes and letting them loose in school. We played softball, football, but mostly "hooky" whenever we thought we could get away with skipping school. We were always in some sort of trouble and certainly the terror of the neighborhood.

Paul was drafted in the U.S. Army after graduating high school and I went to college. Coming home for spring break, my folks told me how Paul was killed in Vietnam. It was so senseless. He only had two weeks left of his tour when he died. Paul had been in a convoy, hanging from a truck, when the vehicle hit a bump in the road. He fell, landing on his head, and breaking his neck.

I never saw Paul again, but I do see him often in my memories! How the two of us survived childhood was a miracle. And our miracle seemed so very brief.

It's been about 42 years since Paul died. I look at all my accomplishments in life: college, marriage, children, grandchildren and even a career in the U.S. Navy. I enjoyed great friends, wonderful food, fantastic adventures and all the other joys that life has to offer.

And now it's another Memorial Day. I think of Paul and all the things he didn't get to do. My eyes fill with tears as they do now, while writing this. So many veterans had friends just like Paul.

Someday, I would like to see the Vietnam Wall display of those who lost their lives in that war. I would like to find Paul's name on that memorial.

Neil I. Ross

U.S. Navy, OSCS, Retired

North Collins

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Put bottles in bins ?to help recyclers

Although very happy to receive my large, green recycling tote, the first evening I put it out, I had concerns.

"Now, how are those hard-working pop bottle collectors ever going to reach the bottles at the bottom of this tote?" I asked myself. I even tried to reach a pop bottle way down on the bottom and couldn't. While unsuccessfully reaching for the bottle, a solution occurred to me: We should all repurpose our old blue recycling totes by using them to put returnable bottles and cans out on garbage day. That way our hard-working pop bottle collectors in Buffalo will have a bit easier time of it.

Eileen O'Brien

Buffalo

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Agreement is unlikely? to improve patient care

Kaleida Health and BlueCrossBlueShield's recently announced agreement seems more rooted in market manipulation than in improving patient care.

From the insurer's perspective, the plan was probably an easy decision. It has the chance to offer relief to employer groups in the cost of their health plans as early as next year. It is not surprising the plan initially will be offered to only self-insured groups; they may feel the pressure of rising health care costs more acutely as their employer and employee dollars go directly to health services as opposed to premiums.

Blue CrossBlue Shield expects certain self-insured groups will accept fewer choices of in-network providers in exchange for likely reductions in the rates they pay for services. Similarly, doctors, hospitals and other health care facilities participating in the plan agree to lower reimbursements in exchange for this preferred status in the plan. These providers may predict that any decreases in revenue from reduced reimbursements will be made up for by volume increases from strong financial incentives steering patients in the plan their way, or worse, by cost-shifting to other private plans.

It is difficult to believe the same insurers and providers will be fundamentally better at coordinating care in one plan over others. It is difficult to believe that potentially having to ask patients to abruptly change their physician(s) for no other reason than network design somehow puts that patient on a path to better health. Increased collaboration between insurers and providers is undoubtedly a good thing, and insurers and providers do and should make continual efforts to improve coordination and limit volume over quality incentives. But, those efforts can happen without identifying a subset of patients and setting up a financial structure in an attempt to claim them as your own. A regional approach to health care system change is what is needed, but unfortunately, this approach looks frustratingly petty.

Matthew Kinney

Buffalo

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We must create new wealth? in order to grow economy

The months have dragged into years as the president and Congress make fools of themselves blaming each other for the dying U.S. economy.

There is never any suggestion that the economy needs to grow through the creation of true new wealth.

May 20 was the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, which encouraged the creation of new family farms. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was on television to commemorate the occasion. He went on to say that today only one-tenth of 1 percent of the population produces 85 percent of our food; and these farmers are underreported and unappreciated.

Robert Samuelson, in his recent op-ed about a farm boom, makes it sound as if farmers are as rich as the Facebook creator. Where was Samuelson in 1992 when the 9-billion bushel corn crop, one-third of world production, would not have brought in enough money to pay the U.S. food stamp bill? Samuelson quoted a farm management adviser as saying this is the best time in 30 or 40 years. Doesn't Samuelson realize that's a lifetime of work for most of the population?

In 1985, professor Peter Drucker of Claremont Graduate School said prices for primary products were at levels not seen since a severe industrial world depression. He ended his commentary with the suggestion that the new services economy jobs must be making up the difference and preventing a new severe depression. In 1950, farm income produced 14 percent of the GNP. Today, farm income is about 1 percent of the GNP while health care is 14 percent. Drucker ignored the fact that borrowing was beginning to make up the difference. The government has created a debt of $14 trillion since 1980 and called it wealth. It circulated in the economy as money, but there is no way to pay the debt without borrowing more, It is my opinion that Facebook is nothing more than the face of the non-wealth producing services economy.

Marlene Schotz

Wilson

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Did high taxes play role ?in Greatbatch decision?

I understand the reasoning given by the Greatbatch executives to relocate to Texas, but one little item was left out. The personal tax burden on these four men will be substantially lightened in Texas, where there is no state income tax and property taxes are actually affordable. Could it be that overtaxing had some part in this? Nah, that's just crazy talk.

John Holder

Orchard Park