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Removal of Rao is indefensible

I am a 20-year member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, a former board member and officer, its former business administrator and development manager. I am utterly appalled and profoundly saddened by the sudden, unexplained and indefensible termination by the chorus board of directors of its internationally renowned music director, Doreen Rao.

The chorus has grown magnificently under Rao's brief tenure, vastly improving the quality of the ensemble, attracting new, younger and diverse singers, garnering the public support of our wonderful partner, the BPO, drawing consistently positive accolades from reviewers and audiences, and extending its service and outreach in Western New York.

However, in spite of these achievements, a board majority saw fit to end Rao's contributions to the community without warning or a single performance review in her 3-plus years here, and for reasons known only to itself, but which I and others suspect smack of insecurity, narrow vision, an outdated mode of governance and a pathetic, desperate need for control.

Not only has this handful of individuals robbed me personally of the best possible circumstances in which to lift my voice in song -- an act that is spiritual and necessary for me -- it has deprived this community of a major positive force in our collective cultural lives.

What a shame that approximately 11 people on the chorus board have violated the public trust and irreparably diminished our cultural and social enrichment for their own petty personal gain.

Nell J. Mohn

Grand Island

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Board should reverse ill-considered action

The termination, mid-contract, of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus' world-renowned music director Doreen Rao is beyond comprehension. Rao has raised the performance and educational value of the chorus from, at best, a good community group to a professional performing group capable of truly adding value to Philharmonic Orchestra performances. She has continually reached out to establish ties with our community. To jeopardize the remainder of the orchestra season and, at the very least, limit the near-term future seasons for what can best be described as the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus board's inability to work with a professional of Rao's stature and accomplishments is inexcusable.

We feel that as a result of this board action, we must withhold any further financial, political or community support of the chorus until such time as the integrity and responsibility of the governing board can be re-established. We hope the board will reverse its ill-considered action.

Sue Fay Allen

Music Director

Amherst Bel Canto Choirs

Past President, American Choral

Directors Association, New York

Carl Klingenschmitt

Consultant, Akron

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Chorus' credibility has taken a big hit

I am appalled, saddened and disillusioned that the board of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus would act in such an irresponsible manner as to terminate Doreen Rao as music director of this chorus. Rao has brought a level of musical excellence and artistry that has been unparalleled, as I have seen in my 34 years as former accompanist for this organization. The loss of Rao will have resounding repercussions, not only for the chorus but for the community, and the credibility of this city having a world-class chorus and world-class music director.

Bettyalice Riehle

Elma

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Approving pipeline now would be preposterous

The News' coverage of Washington politics is generally pretty fair and objective. But its front-page article on President Obama's current rejection of the oil pipeline left me scratching my head. The first sentence of the article characterized this as a "politically explosive" decision. Later, the article asserts "for a U.S. electorate eager for work, the pipeline has become the very symbol of job creation for Republicans." The clear implication is that the president's decision was a job-killing, politically ill-advised move.

Buried near the end of the article is the acknowledgment that, for significant portions of the pipeline, the "route still has not been proposed." In other words, the Republicans and the oil lobby expected the president to approve the pipeline even though he does not know where it is going to go!

A basic principle of environmental law is that you cannot assess the impact of a construction project if you do not know where the project is going to go. Approving this project in its present inchoate state would be preposterous. The president has not indicated that he opposes the project under all circumstances. He simply needs adequate information to make aninformed decision. If I wanted simplistic, right-wing talking points, I would tune into Fox News. I expect more from The News.

Joseph L. Gerken

Buffalo

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Independent review of pipeline needed

The Jan. 21 News editorial about President Obama's pipeline decision misses the main point by a mile. An obstreperous House forced the issue by inserting language into the payroll tax cut bill last December mandating a decision on the pipeline by the end of this month. The "bad call," then, was Congress' -- not the president's.

As the Christian Science Monitor pointed out in a brief but balanced report on Nov. 21, 2011: "TransCanada has experienced spills in recent years, including on the existing Keystone pipeline," leading environmentalists to question whether the company can be trusted.

An article in the New York Times on Oct. 7, 2011, noted: A major complaint of environmentalists was that "Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston," was assigned to perform an environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, "even though [Cardno Entrix] had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a 'major client' in its marketing materials."

Given TransCanada's record, and the obvious conflicts of interest in the Cardno Entrix study, an independent environmental review seems in order.

Douglas Aerie

Buffalo

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Obama is clueless; we need Keystone

If there was any doubt of President Obama being influenced by radical groups, he removed that doubt by refusing to OK the Keystone pipeline. It appears the environmentalists have hinted that they would withhold their support for him if he went ahead with the job-creating pipeline. Beyond clueless does not describe Obama's inability to grasp what will help this country. It seems he fears the "eco-maniacs" more than the unions.

Frank A. Gugino Sr.

West Seneca

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Gingrich, not King, is being 'despicable'

Newt Gingrich, the Pillsbury Doughboy, accused John King of CNN of being "despicable" for having had the nerve to question him about the "open marriage" quote from his second wife. It's an apt accusation, since Gingrich personifies "despicable."

It was he who rode President Bill Clinton for his alleged indiscretions -- the same kind as Gingrich, incidentally -- until impeachment charges were leveled against the president. Gingrich, as speaker of the House of Representatives, led the pack, barking at Clinton's heels, harassing him, embarrassing him and acting in a despicable fashion until the vote allowed Clinton to remain as an excellent president.

Gingrich later resigned from Congress after being sanctioned by members of his own party. Despicable? Yes. Typical of Gingrich? Yes. Applicable to a reporter asking a relevant question? I don't think so. To arouse a standing ovation by showing anger and expressing it in college English is not my idea of a wonderful qualification for a man running for president. If I had to vote in the Republican primary election, I'd be forced to support "none of the above."

Hallie Morrison Block

Williamsville

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Facts about Gingrich speak for themselves

When Newt Gingrich was asked about a statement by his second wife that he asked her to stay in an "open marriage," he bristled and then attacked the moderator and the press. According to news reports in 1999, when he finally asked his second wife that question, he had actually practiced open marriage (without her knowledge) for six years. According to statements by Callista, his third wife, the affair with Gingrich started in 1993. So even if you are inclined to dismiss his second wife's statement as coming from a woman scorned, the facts actually speak for themselves.

Al Meiler

East Aurora

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We can do better than Roe v. Wade

The letter titled "Freedom of choice is worth celebrating" was quite provocative. It made me reflect upon the many ways that America's hard-won freedoms should be celebrated. Creating a new holiday to celebrate 40 years of Roe v. Wade was not among them. The author's reasons for celebrating the Supreme Court's decision included the thousands of women whose lives were lost as the result of back-alley abortions. Perhaps he is unaware that the lives of 50 million babies have been forfeited during this time; a hefty price to pay to uphold a woman's right to choose. None was afforded a choice in the matter of their demise.

Now I am not overtly religious. I've never stood in an abortion line or even argued over abortion. I am an average person who strives to think independently and practically. My thoughts about abortion have perhaps crystallized with age and as I brought my own children into this weary world. We might need the Supreme Court to determine what is legal, but I sure don't need it to tell me what is right.

We do indeed enjoy a great many freedoms in the United States. But with freedom comes an enormous responsibility that is too often overlooked. We are obligated to set high moral standards and live up to them.

If we are to survive as a country, it is essential that we increase our level of personal responsibility, make better decisions about how we lead our lives and promote greater care and interest in the nurturing of our youth. We can do better than Roe v. Wade.

Richard Smith

Snyder

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Why not consider Dixon for top job?

Once again, as the Buffalo Schools begin the search for a new superintendent, the Board of Education feels compelled to search out of this area. It seems driven to hire and overpay someone who has failed elsewhere, i.e. James Harris and James Williams.

Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon is expressing interest in the job. It seems to me that someone who came up through the ranks would be much more in touch with the needs of Buffalo's children. Why does that cease to be an option?

Dennis Patterson

Buffalo