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Let's not forget Iraqis who also died in war

We share Denise Jewell Gee's desire to honor and remember the sacrifices made by American soldiers in Iraq ("Lives lost in Iraq can't be forgotten," Jan. 2), but we wish she had at least mentioned the more than 100,000 Iraqis who died in this war.

It always astounds us when commentators forget that people other than Americans die in our nation's wars, especially when the numbers are so disproportionate. Most of the Iraqis who died were civilians, or "collateral damage," as the United States pursued a mission that had more to do with access to Iraqi oil and corporate profits than anything else. This fact was readily admitted by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a 2011 interview on MSNBC where he also noted that Iraq's oil reserves of 100 billion to 300 billion barrels may dwarf those of Saudi Arabia. It is a tragedy of unimaginable proportion that so many lives were lost, so many people still suffer devastating disabilities and so many families have been forever shattered for this reason.

Human lives are much more precious and important than dollars, however, it's also worth mentioning that this completely unnecessary war cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $1 trillion.

Nan and Walter Simpson

Amherst

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Recent prison terms don't make any sense

OK, does this make sense?

First, 52-year-old teacher Steven R. Harms was sentenced to six months for raping a 15-year-old girl. Calling it "having sex" in the Jan. 5 News story doesn't mean it's not rape when he was 45 at the time and she was 15.

Second, Lori A. Maciejewski was given two to six years for killing someone. She was drinking and driving, possibly fell asleep at the wheel and now a person is dead.

Third, Ramone D. Walker was sentenced to four years for fifth-degree drug possession (1.65 grams of cocaine). Four years! No young teenage girl was raped. No one was killed. He wasn't selling cocaine, he simply had a tiny amount of it on his person.

Does this make sense? Ask yourself: What are the real objectives behind laws and sentencing guidelines, and what is the point of view of judges?

Nancy Fernandez

Buffalo

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Free tuition program benefits entire region

I wonder if the letter writers criticizing the free tuition plan for Buffalo students are aware of the Kalamazoo Promise? Understanding the real benefits of the free college tuition program for Buffalo public school students will hopefully help residents of Western New York realize that this is a fantastic benefit to our entire region. If you are in doubt, please see what it has done for Kalamazoo, Mich., which in 2005 did the same thing with the Kalamazoo Promise.

This isn't just about providing college education; this is about economic revitalization for Buffalo. Kalamazoo, like Buffalo, had fallen upon hard times, but within a year of announcing a similar free tuition program funded by philanthropists, the city experienced an economic boom that included a large increase in home values.

Think about how this will improve the impoverished neighborhoods in Buffalo if selling a home now also means the buyer's children may be able to get free college tuition? This not only brings new people into Buffalo, it brings businesses that will invest in a community that can attract the best talents because of this benefit. Imagine the impact on property tax rolls as more vacant homes are purchased and rehabbed. It will also help to increase enrollment in our state and community colleges. Consider the real trickle up this plan will have on businesses and neighborhoods. Buffalo is the third-most impoverished city in the country. How can we not support something so forward thinking that costs taxpayers nothing?

I am one of the fortunates who was able to raise my children in one of the top suburban school districts in the region. My children won the economic lottery via that education. But I love Buffalo and I want it to thrive; a thriving Buffalo is good for all of Western New York. And if giving children who live in poverty a free college education not only helps them but helps the entire region, I am all for it!

Mimi Piciullo

Williamsville

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Unusual weather is cause for concern

As I sit her weathering out another Buffalo winter, I believe -- like a lot of you -- that the climate change scientists have got it all wrong. For me it's a difficult proposition because I deeply respect the diligence, thoughtfulness, intelligence and conservativeness demonstrated by the scientific community. Yet I can't help but wonder if the scientific community has erred in its predictions of how human activity will affect our weather over time. What if the global warming threat is actually many times more severe than the consensus opinions of all these respected scientists? Indeed, what if the heat retained by our planet is much, much greater than the worst calculations?

You see, since Christmas I have been witnessing the queer sight of neighbors cutting their lawns, washing their cars and replacing their roofs. I realize this may be a singular event for the Buffalo area. However, let us consider that the entire United States has been basking in warmth and aridness. Then recall that in 2011 there were way too many once-in-a-lifetime droughts, heat waves, floods and storms across the earth.

The data that supports global warming is established, but as I climb the ladder to take the holiday lights off the trees in the yard (three months earlier than normal and in shirt sleeves), it's more the immediate future I am worried about.

Michael Tenhagen

West Seneca

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Withholding donations only hurts the animals

In response to a recently posted letter where the writer said she would stop donating to the Erie County SPCA if its director was being investigated for unnecessary euthanasia, as is happening with John Faso of the Niagara County SPCA, let's not lose focus on why these shelters exist -- for the animals.

Please don't punish the animals by not donating to the shelters that house them. I'm a strong supporter of the "no kill" goal for all shelters, but the reality is that overcrowding and lack of funds have a direct impact on euthanasia. We can't refuse to donate, especially to those shelters in counties less populated than Erie County. The SPCAs and county animal shelters in these surrounding counties are in desperate need of cash and supplies to maintain the quality of life of the homeless animals in their care.

Yes, speak up and make those who mismanage accountable. But withholding donations only defeats why these shelters exist in the first place and punishes the innocent -- the hundreds of dogs, cats and other animals who would be dead if not for the public's donations.

Laura Dent

Tonawanda