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Health care reform silent on malpractice reform

   The folks drawing up the health care bill in the House spread ink over more than 1,000
pages … but not a word deals head-on with one of the central complaints of doctors in Buffalo
and nationwide.

   There's no mention of medical malpractice liability reform to fix what
doctors call a lawsuit-happy system that prods them to order extra expensive
tests just to ward off potential lawsuits.

   Experts in the field counter by saying that lawsuits are actually falling in volume and
that any effort to change the system might end up costing more.

   But there are other issues at play, too.

   Might it be that doctors are ordering all those tests because, in some
cases, they profit from it?

   And might it be that Democrats are opposed to liability reform because of
the piggy bank … filled with $178.7 million in 2008 alone … that trial lawyers
provide for them?

   … Jerry Zremski

Kane comes to court, tracked by cameras

About an hour before Patrick Kane's 2 p.m. arraignment, news cameras were stationed on Delaware Avenue outside Buffalo City Court waiting for him to arrive.

   When the 20-year-old Chicago Blackhawk did, along with his attorney and parents, the cameras and reporters followed them through the metal detectors and up to the seventh floor of the courthouse. But they were stopped just outside Chief Judge Thomas P. Amodeo's courtroom door.

   Per the request of defense attorneys, cameras were kept out of the court proceeding.

   Both Patrick T. Kane and his cousin, James M. Kane, 21, pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree assault and theft of services, both misdemeanors, and harassment, a violation, during a five-minute arraignment.

   After today's court appearance, Patrick Kane addressed reporters outside the courthouse. Listen to his statement here.

Kane arraignment FOR WEB

   Above: Kane is pictured after giving his statement to reporters. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

   An Erie County grand jury convened last week indicted the Kane cousins on the above charges, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita said Wednesday.

  -Here's the story on the latest developments.

   The Kanes are accused of beating 62-year-old cab driver Jan Radecki, leaving him with a broken nose and broken glasses.

   Patrick Kane, a South Buffalo native, participated in orientation camp for the U.S. Olympic team earlier this week.

   James Kane initially hired Daniel Barry Jr., an attorney who works in the Buffalo Legal Aid Bureau, shortly after his arrest. When he came to court today, he was represented by prominent Buffalo defense attorney Joel L. Daniels.

   Patrick Kane's attorney is Paul J. Cambria Jr., another high-profile Buffalo attorney.

   --Aaron Besecker

Why cab driver's license issue is important

I've gotten several e-mails and phone calls from outraged readers who think The Buffalo News was fed information about Jan Radecki's past by Patrick Kane's attorney in an attempt to discredit the Buffalo cab driver. Radecki has accused the 20-year-old National Hockey League star and his cousin, James M. Kane, 21, of robbing and assaulting him.

   The paper is "blaming the victim," critics say, and playing into the hand of Paul Cambria Jr., Patrick Kane's high-profile defense attorney.

   Andrew lotempio for web Radecki's attorney, Andrew C. LoTempio (pictured right, Derek Gee/Buffalo News), said this to me on Wednesday: "It sounds to me like the newspaper is trying to villainize my client."

   These claims are untrue. We await court proceedings, including today's session before a grand jury, that will reveal what really happened in the cab early Sunday morning. Meanwhile, The News is investigating all aspects of the case. The stories about the license are just the first pieces of information to come to light.

   The stories about the cabbie's license, while calling into question Radecki's character, are not an attempt to make excuses for what the Kanes may have done in that cab. Keep in mind, though, that those are only allegations.

   Here's how some stories, including this one, develop in the newsroom:

   The News has amassed an internal database of public records. All reporters, editors and newsroom Library Director David Valenzuela regularly use the database when researching stories. The database includes information from voter registration, property and public payroll records. When possible, we go to the agencies and offices who maintain that information to corroborate what we've found.

   A search of our database yielded court records of Jan Radecki's past convictions, including one in Buffalo City Court for drunk driving. (See image below)

Radecki screen shot for web

   The newspaper also has access to a state Department of Motor Vehicles database, which a few members of staff can search for more information based on search results of public records.

   The DMV audits our searches periodically, and we have to substantiate the searches we've done. We can't just "go fishing" for a person's driving record. If we can't prove we were searching for a good reason, we lose our access.

   So the background on the cab driver came from our own research, not from Kane's lawyer.Paul cambria for web

   I asked Cambria (pictured right, Bill Wippert/Buffalo News) when I spoke to him earlier this week whether he knew about the cabbie's past. He said he did, but did not want to be the source of any of that information.

   In a story published today, and as a result of days of research, The News has found the DMV investigating possible fraud since Radecki applied for a new license under a different name and address after a drunk driving conviction in 1999.

   That could be criminal, Chautauqua County District Attorney David W. Foley told The News.

   LoTempio, his attorney, said his client is willing to do "whatever he needs to do to straighten it out."

   Allegations about lying to the DMV are relevant in this situation because they speak to a portion of Radecki's character. They raise questions about whether what he said happened in his cab last weekend are completely true.

   Think about it this way -- what if you were accused of a crime by someone with Radecki's background? Would you think this information was worth knowing then?

  -- Aaron Besecker

Flood vignettes from Gowanda

  Flood gowanda

It's curious the things that stayed.

   After a savage flood inundated the Village of Gowanda this week, with water rising up to nine feet above the flood stage, perhaps the most incredible things are those that weren't swept away. 

   Before the flood, Mike and Michelene Washy laid a curb of bricks in front of their Chestnut Street house. They used no mortar; it seemed unnecessary.

   Early Monday morning, the couple woke to see a surging river of garbage and debris rushing down the street. Just blocks away on Stafford Road, the violent waters carved a gorge more than 100 feet long out of the road.

   In front of the Washy residence, not a brick was moved.

   Bryon Ivett knows what horrors a flood can cause. His friend, 80-year-old Ted Stitzel,

drowned when the overflowing Thatcher Brook swept him underwater on Monday. Ivett, a postal carrier, maintained the unwavering reputation of the U.S. Postal Service when he delivered mail during the state of emergency Monday.

   As Ivett traversed devastated Route 62, he saw house after house thrashed by the flood.

Even if much of the house wasn't standing, the mailboxes stood, still servants to their overwhelmed owners.

   William Flagg said that when the flood waters subdued, he was left with nearly nothing. His home is destroyed, his 20-foot trailer sailed to an unknown location and his car is sitting on 5 feet of debris.

   But his two cats, who never made it back to the house during the storm, both returned to him afterward, swaggering to his feet as if nothing happened.

   Farther down the road from Flagg, Charles Toy said the flood carried away his childrens' sandbox. He found it in a yard blocks from his home. He found his backyard tomato patch exactly as he left it, vegetables still intact.

   Al Lindquit wasn't as lucky with his home. He never stood a chance as the flooded brook filled the first floor with more than a foot of water. On Tuesday, he hauled what little he could salvage from the house into a moving van and took his family to stay with relatives near Perrysburg. This was his third flood, each one ravaging the home that used to belong to his grandfather.

   "We may not be coming back," he said.

   But the flood can't claim victory over him. Although he may have to find a different house, he, also, is staying. 

   "This is home," he said.

-- Collin Binkley

(Photo by Derek Gee/Buffalo News: Erika Calhoun, 15, shovels mud left behind from Sunday's flood off of the sidewalk in front of Positively Main Street in Gowanda on Tuesday.)