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Government is needed? in health care overhaul

I am an admitted liberal political partisan who believes, strongly, that government is consequential to our lives. Its role is to protect the health and well being of all citizens, equally. In return, it requires upkeep and maintenance provided fairly and equitably by all.

Many of us do not fully understand all the nuances of the Affordable Health Care Act, but realize that those calling it Obamacare are against it. Yet, as more people learn the specifics of what's in it, the more they like it and resist its shredding.

The "mandate," which was first proposed by congressional Republicans, later instituted in Massachusetts by Gov. Mitt Romney, was thought to be a good feature and adopted by President Obama. The idea was not only to make it as universal as possible, but more affordable. Pre-2009 Republicans understood that the more people who are covered, including the relatively healthy, the more diluted the pool and the fairer for everyone and, ultimately, less expensive and more cost effective.

But after 2009 politics reared its ugly head. Suddenly the loyal opposition wasn't interested in health care. Anti-Obama issues were nurtured. Criticism and negativity worked fine. Oppose and abolish became the mantra. Romney, once again, flipped over his own law. A gentleman from Amherst, in a July 7 letter, thought it more important to suppress voting rights, through "proof of citizenship", than to expand and improve health care, unaware that in the past decade, more Americans have been hit by lightning than have committed voter fraud.

After November, let's hope for a rebirth of goodwill, commonality and compromise. More "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" will give rise to Tevye's fear in "Fiddler on the Roof" that, soon, we'll all "be blind and toothless."

Leonard Gross

East Amherst

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Bloomberg statement? was, indeed, reckless

Regarding the response to the July 2 letter quoting Mayor Bloomberg's statement, "New York is a place where you can do whatever you want to do," same-sex marriage is only one issue of many confronting society. Bloomberg's statement sounds strangely like Judges 21:25 " ... every man did that which was right in his own eyes". It wasn't always good.

Donald R. Barber

Fillmore

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Health care issue? has many opinions

Your recent coverage of the Fortnight for Freedom and the many questions about the health-care mandate has, I believe, been extremely one-sided and, frankly, in error.

You quoted certain Catholics and one poll, but there are many other opinions among individual Catholics and many other polls available that show quite different results. Apparently, the June 23 editorial relies on the identical poll, or at least the same pollster.

So: "Catholic businesses." Would you like to see Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, etc., simply close their doors? They raise money. They get grants from many levels of government. Do they make a profit? Or do they use income to serve more people or improve services? And serve without questioning the religion of the served? Yes, they need to function in a business-like way, or they won't be around. For anyone.

Businesses operated by Catholics are far from official institutions. An individual Catholic has a free conscience, and must decide questions based on an honest judgment of what is right. He or she may judge a particular situation in agreement with church teaching, or something different. However, church teaching remains consistent, and consistently in favor of life.

You seem to ignore the fact that the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate covers not only contraceptives, but also abortifacients and even sterilization. Many more people, Catholics and not, have a moral objection to these, but I don't see that mentioned in your coverage.

Adam Zyglis's cartoon "The Individual Mandate" is, frankly, illogical. Do we go buy a highway? Police services? The fire department? There's probably no person to be found in the United States who thinks our health care system doesn't need enormous changes, and the ways to improve it are multiple. Sarcasm and dishonesty do not help find solutions.

Editorials and editorial cartoons are expected to raise comment and even, hopefully, thought. But I wish more, and more honest and unbiased, thought would go into your news coverage, editorials and editorial cartoons.

Ann Deck

Williamsville

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Independence Day songs? were very not patriotic

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure at the music selection accompanying the Canalside fireworks last Wednesday. The first song played was "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. This is not a patriotic song. It is a song that protests the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans by Americans after returning from the war.

The second song played was "American Woman" by the Guess Who (who are Canadian). Again, this is a protest song against America. It is one of the most anti-American songs ever written, having lyrics like "American woman, get away from me," "I don't wanna see your face no more," and "I don't need your war machine, I don't need your ghetto scene."

For future Independence Day celebrations I suggest that we play truly patriotic songs. Songs that don't insult America. Songs that celebrate our wonderful country and give our country the respect it deserves.

Chris Kuzan

Hamburg

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Peace Bridge expansion ?will produce nothing

Recent articles and opinions have raised several issues that must be examined thoroughly if there is to be informed debate about the Peace Bridge plaza expansion. First is the notion that the expansion is needed for the economic viability of the Sabres and the Bills. So far, $100 million of taxpayer money is in the state budget for the expansion. Notably, the teams themselves have not said that bridge wait times are a problem. Is it worth $100 million, on top of the stadium improvements we are already on the hook for, just to maintain the status quo?

A study by the Binational Tourist Alliance, which includes the Peace Bridge Authority, found that 90 percent of the time there is no wait time at the bridge, and also found that people are not refraining from coming to Western New York because of wait times. Rather, one of the top reasons given for not coming to Western New York was that there is nothing over here people want to do. Wouldn't the $100 million be better spent addressing that?

The News has also said that expansion will make the crossing more attractive to truckers and draw more commerce to the bridge. Asthma and other diesel-related illnesses are documented as alarmingly high near the bridge. Also, only about 15 percent of the trucks crossing at the bridge are coming to or going from Western New York. The rest are just passing through. Why would we want to attract more truckers who bring nothing to the region but disease? The only "commerce" that takes place at the bridge is toll collecting of which Western New York gets nothing and spending at the duty free store of which Western New York gets nothing. Why would we spend $100 million to get more nothing?

Then there is the notion that because the authority and Department of Environmental Conservation are going to monitor the air quality, residents may find out if the air they breathe is dangerous. A study released in 2011 conducted by researchers associated with the Harvard School of Public Health already confirmed the high levels of toxins present in the air in the Peace Bridge neighborhood.

Western New York does not need another study, we don't need more truckers and we don't need to waste $100 million and get nothing in return.

Linda J. DeTine

Buffalo

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Wind energy debate must ?consider practicalities

The July 1 Viewpoints piece, "Wind industry needs to stand on its own two feet now," by David A. Bassett makes the point "that the time has come for the wind industry to stand on its own two feet, and that 20 years of taxpayer support is enough." He recommends that energy subsidies be shifted to the 27 quadrillion British thermal units (Btus) of energy that are rejected non-productively to the environment across the nation each year as a consequence of making electricity.

He notes that the Potomac Electric Power Co.'s Potomac River Station burns fossil fuel at the rate of 1,200 Megawatts (MW), produces electricity at 400 MW and "rejects" heat into the river and nearby environment at 800 MW. Astonishingly, perhaps, the efficiency of conversion to electricity is only 33 percent, with 67 percent of the energy rejected. Engineers often refer to this heat as "waste heat" or "low-grade heat" because of its low temperature in comparison with that in the boiler.

Some may be inclined to conclude that the engineers designing this plant were not very concerned with efficiency. Many engineering students take a course in thermodynamics. They learn that 100 percent efficiency (all 1,200 MW would be converted to 1,200 MW of electricity with no rejected energy) is theoretically impossible. According to the Second Law, theoretical efficiencies might run between 60 and 70 percent whereas typical actual efficiencies might be around 33 percent, as with the Potomac Station.

As the author goes on to say, the 27 quadrillion Btus produced in this country are, in terms of quantity, greater than the energy required to run many economies. But we should bear in mind that these 27 quadrillion are, in terms of quality, low-grade and often just used to heat buildings.

Thomas W. Weber Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus at UB