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Who do you believe on fire promotions?

Mayor Byron Brown states that Tom Barrett's accusations concerning a pay-to-play scheme regarding promotions in the Fire Department are baseless. So who should the citizens of Buffalo believe? Brown, his sidekick, Steve Casey, and Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., all of whom seem to get fiction and reality confused? Or the vice president of the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, who has the best interests of all Buffalo firefighters at heart?

Brown says there is nothing irregular or underhanded going on. Is this the same mayor who has been under investigation by the FBI for corruption in his administration? The same mayor whose Grassroots friends have either been indicted or fired from city positions? Karla Thomas and Brian Davis are two that most readers are familiar with.

Casey reportedly loves the "one-in-three" promotion provision in the Taylor Law. I wonder why? But when Brown, Casey and Whitfield skip over a firefighter for promotion, they can't seem to follow the law. The Taylor Law states that the city must provide a written explanation when a higher-scoring firefighter is skipped for promotion. To this day, this has never been followed. Not to mention no raises and no contract for firefighters in more than 10 years.

Adding insult to injury was the promotion of Whitfield as commissioner, with his limited firefighting experience. It just never seems to end. So I pose the question again: Who do you believe? Those who circumvent the Taylor Law and rules in general, or the union vice president, who is standing up for his members because they can't for fear of reprisals on future promotional lists?

Phil Ryan

Previous recording secretary

Local 282, Buffalo Fire Department (retired)

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Catholic bishops called for protests

Doug Turner's column criticized "self-appointed" Catholic political leaders, such as myself, for both politicizing the church and promoting "rage" among its adherents. However, my "game-changer" quote in the Newsmax story, alluded to by Turner, while putting the bishops' reaction to the Health and Human Services mandate in a political context, hardly qualifies as an incendiary remark. I'm not the one who publicly called for two weeks of protests, rather it was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But the significance of Catholics protesting religious liberty in the summer before a presidential election is obvious to anyone familiar with the dynamics among the Mass-attending Catholics who vote.

Deal W. Hudson

Chairman, Catholic Advocate

Washington, D.C.

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Obama deserves credit for ordering mission

Why is it our president can't even get the credit he is due in regard to killing the world's No. 1 terrorist -- Osama bin Laden? I think I know why, but we just don't mention these things out loud.

Here are the facts. A year ago, the president got enough military intelligence to pinpoint the bad guy and he made the call. The mission was full of possible problems, and some definite ones to boot. But make no bones about it, Navy SEAL Team 6 went in and executed bin Laden, on the president's order. Bad guy dead, 3,000 American lives avenged and al-Qaida mortally wounded.

Now the right-wing Republicans want to question this? They want to debunk it for their beloved political talking points? I want to bring up a few more facts. The Bush administration was warned several times that bin Laden was coming, sometimes in very clear, alarming language. The administration chose to pursue an incorrect policy of blaming Iraq; formulating intelligence, lying about interactions on the world stage and, probably most horrific, revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent in order to punish a dissenter who dared to speak out.

The Bush administration, under the tutelage of Vice President Dick Cheney, led this country into a money-sucking, life-draining and morally demented era of this great country's existence. I'm afraid it hasn't stopped. We should be smarter next time, but I doubt it. One thing you can count on -- the right wing is always right -- even when it's wrong. Even when we actually get the bad guy.

Jim McDonough

Holland

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Don't judge Pinnacle solely on test scores

I have read in The News of the closing of the Pinnacle Charter School. Let me say first that I have no known connection to anyone at Pinnacle. No, what gives me pause is the mechanism for deciding whether any school should be closed.

Is the New York State Department of Education's statistical analysis of this school robust enough to give a good picture of education in this school? Are there no statistics that would show the seemingly wonderful working relationships between the faculty, administrators and parents? Is not community involvement of extreme importance in education? Are there no statistics that ask how students feel about their teachers and their school? Are there no statistics that look at the broader impact that closing the school would have on students? Are there no other factors that the Education Department would want to look at before closing this or any school?

Regardless of how the department resolves this particular issue, the questions become our questions as a community. How do we judge good educational value? Are test scores alone enough to pass judgment on the value of education to our sons and daughters? I know my colleagues and I reflect on these questions daily as we interact with students, administrators and parents.

Robert Tyrrell

Grand Island

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Stop tobacco companies from trying to hook kids

The tobacco companies spend billions of dollars to market their products in stores. It is no coincidence that their signs are located near candy counters and at the eye level of teens and children.

As a young adult, I have seen the tobacco industry's desperate attempt to recruit young users, especially in convenience stores. As children, we are taught that smoking is bad, but as we get a little older somehow this message doesn't affect us any longer. People who choose to start smoking must know the hazards it brings, so why do they do it? Advertisements put in stores look so appealing that the tobacco industry tricks us into thinking everybody is doing it and it's a cool thing to do.

I lost my grandparents due to tobacco use, and I do not think having to grow up without them is OK. Maybe if they didn't start so young, they would still be here.

Parents and young adults need to be aware of how children are targeted all over without even knowing it. The tobacco industry has a way of getting into a child's mind and using temptation to get what they want. They want addicted smokers so they can make money. It is time to stop targeting children because we have seen enough!

Amanda Sanbelmo

Cheektowaga