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The most important man you never heard of.

   I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space.
- Adm. James T. Kirk

   Norman Borlaug was from Iowa, too. He worked mostly in Mexico, Africa and Asia, but he might as well have been light years away for all the attention the news media paid little attention to him. Until he died a week ago last Saturday at the age of 95. 
- Borlaug, who saved millions from hunger, dies  
    Scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug rose from his childhood on an Iowa farm to develop a type of wheat that helped feed the world, fostering a movement that is credited with saving up to 1 billion people from starvation. [AP/The Buffalo News. Honors list]


    Our editorial praised his accomplishments, with a little "yes, but" thrown in:
- A giant passes
   The first round of the Green Revolution is not sustainable. But, if the next generation is as smart and as industrious as Norman Borlaug was, it won’t have to be.

   A few years ago, I wrote a book about him. OK, it was a page (43) in a book about the sins of modern agriculture called "Raising Less Corn, More Hell."
   Anything is better than mass starvation, plus all the migration, social upheaval, epidemics, and wars that would certainly accompany any significant increase in the number of hungry people. Thus, when the scientist whose work was credited for sparking the Green Revolution, American agronomist Norman Borlaug, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970, it was not one of the science prizes. He received the Nobel Peace Prize.
    Still, this substantial victory has come at substantial costs, costs that have been driven by political and economic factors at least as much as by any changes in crop science. In fact, Borlaug could rightfully be compared to better-known atomic geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi, whose understanding and development of nuclear energy were co-opted to become the property of governments and industries that would happily sell a hundred Nobel Peace Prizes for short-term gain.

   Other commentary from The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Des Moines Register, National Post and The Wall Street Journal.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News   

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/21)

Hope everyone enjoys the last day of summer. Here's hoping for the kind of spectacular autumn weather Buffalo can get -- with no surprises.

Today's edboard included talk of Afghanistan and the blitz of health care speeches/interviews over the weekend. For topics today we decided to look at Acorn, the city police department's don't-talk-to-the-media policies, and the FAA's new office to handle safety complaints.

-mikke vogel

Playing the race card -- or not

Former President Jimmy Carter has decided to play the race card and the Obama administration wants him to put it back into the deck.

Who's to say whether it's too late but now that the cat's out of the bag and Carter has made a stand on what he views as outright racial bigotry being lodged against President Barack Obama, let's talk about it. Carter

Or, not.

Carter has expressed his opinion that the way this president was treated in a recent speech to Congress on health care reform last week was unprecedented -- such behavior never before exhibited on the congressional floor, showing such an enormous amount of disrespect toward the head of state. 

For those who missed it, Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted, "You lie!" following Obama's exertion that his health reform plan would not cover illegal immigrants. Other acts of outrage demonstrated by members of Congress and how the scene compared to the British parliament are masterfully outlined in a column by Eugene Robinson.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, who is also African-American, has said that any objection to Obama's policies have nothing to do with race and saying so is an outrage.

But Carter has obviously taken the matter as a personal affront, telling a television interviewer that racism in American "has bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country."

Is he right? 

After all, does it strike anyone as odd that the president of the United States is roundly criticized for wanting to talk to school children and that some principals and headmasters would not allow their students to hear what the president had to say to them?

Some would argue that this nation, despite electing to office its first African-American president, is far from being ready to discuss race.  Obama delivered a poignant speech on the subject back in March 2008 about the complexities of race in this country which have never been worked through that apparently fell on deaf ears, at least in some sectors.

The Obama administration has, so far, stayed out of any debate regarding the president's "true origin," caricatures showing him in white-face, or other undignified, disgusting and vile references to himself or his family and reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center about an uptick in the activities of white supremacists groups.

Good for Mr. President for remaining above the fray. But is America missing one of its most important "teachable" moments?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/18)

Hi, all:

Short edboard meeting today, because not everyone could make it. We'll be doing something on the unintended flaw in the new state public authorities law that could derail development on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and looking at Chris Collins' boost for tourism promotion funding.

And then we'll be looking forward to a good weekend, which we hope you'll be doing too.

-mike vogel

Kofi Annan and global thinking

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan may have been speaking to University at Buffalo students last night when he urged them to "think globally" but his words applied to each and every one of us in the crowd.Kofi

An elegant choice to kick off the 2009-10 Distinguished Speakers Series at UB's Alumni Arena, Annan brought a wide breadth of experience in his decision-making roles that affected outcomes on a world stage and includes a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in low, mellifluous tones, Annan painted vivid images of difficult situations endured in Rwanda, Kosovo and other places once torn apart by civil unrest. Of course, he spoke of the long road yet ahead for Darfur.  

But he spoke about the interconnectedness of all nations and, as outlined in The News article on the event, emphasized collective responsibility, global prosperity, human rights and the rule of law, accountability and multilateralism.

With technology shrinking the world further and events on one side of the world directly impacting the other, it is impossible not to consider our place and the need to "think globally." And that extends to what role the United States should play and when. (Annan made clear his early objection to the Iraq War). It also extends to immigration policies and issues facing this and other countries. 

Annan's visit to Buffalo kicked off a series of erudite and enlightening speakers, all of whom undoubtedly will broaden our vision of where we stand.

Dawn Marie Bracely

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/17)

Hi, everyone:

At today's meeting, we decided to give credit to a Buffalo innovation that's drawing national attention, Judge Robert Russell's veterans court. We'll also be looking at the failure of Gov. Paterson's lame state-employee buyout offer, and at the state Senate's failure to enact meaningful ethics reforms.

We also noted that, contrary to what we had in the mayoral primary editorial based on early returns, turnout was fairly strong in a couple of the districts carried by Mickey Kearns as well. We'd gone with raw numbers, and the later returns showed the more meaningful percentages of registered voters actually voting. Not a dominant point, but an interesting one.

-mike vogel 

Riding through one of Buffalo's Markets

So, I’m riding my bicycle to work and decide to stop at the Downtown Country Market that sets up twice a week along Main Street, being drawn toward the fresh produce and scrumptious apples in particular.  This is a far departure from my last foray here when I decided to pick up a few items for the office which included jelly candy, a choice that got roundly and dutifully criticized by my coworkers for purchasing one of the few unhealthy available items. (Of course, they had no problem helping me eat it).


My recent excursion to one of Buffalo’s local farmers' markets got me thinking about the issue of access to fresh producefarmers' markets in general and smart growth. My colleague George Pyle wrote an excellent series on the subject of farmers' markets: Neighborhood Dining: It's time to eat locally; Past and Present: Broadway Market and Lexington Co-Op and Seeing the face of the farmer.


Farmers market  


As part of a general push to save Rust Belt cities including upstate New York, experts discuss smart growth initiatives and ways to enhance the downtown core.  Personally, I’ve only lived in Buffalo for nearly 10 years but spent the previous decade down the Thruway in Rochester.  Both cities evoke similar statements of curiosity and incredulity when telling my hometown Washington D.C.-suburban Maryland friends where I’m currently living.  “It’s cold up there!” and, “What about the snow!” Well, yes, but there are also many reasons why natives try to return after leaving and those who’ve moved here decide to stay -- despite the stray bus rider, or two!


It’s all food for thought.


Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/16)

Good morning:

So we'll be looking at the mayoral primary, along with everybody else. Our political beat reporter's analysis of the returns is up on the Web, will be expanded in print tomorrow.

We're also going to be looking at questions of leadership in Congress (Pelosi and Reid) and at cultural tourism in Buffalo. Lots of other targets lately, some of them on hold for at least today . . .

-mike vogel 

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/15)

Hi, all:

Took a day off yesterday to complete recovery from an injury, and there was no editorial board meeting. But there was today, and for topics we centered on work on the Niagara River Greenway, the Brookings Institute's positive view of the Buffalo economy and a combination of court rejection of the SEC deal with Bank of America executives and Obama's remarks on Wall Street.

We also talked about today's primary and the steps leading up to it. And we decided to implement a policy change, because of the apparent organization of letter-writing campaigns; starting in November, the cut-off for publication of election-oriented letters to the editor will be a full week before Election Day, not the Sunday before. We'll print something to that effect in the letters column as the election approaches. The cut-off doesn't apply to the Web pages' articles and blogs.

-mike vogel 

Editorials: Today's edboard (9/11)

Hi, all. Still hurts to type that 9/11 date, as in the header above.

Anyway, more mayoral debate (the final one) at today's meeting, then we picked up the county legislature's upholding of Collins; downsizing veto and action on a federal shield law as new topics. Not making the cut, at least for now, were the state senate's balking at new ethics rules and encouraging news on the Empire State Games. Maybe next week.

Have a great weekend.

-Mike Vogel

p.s.: Zanna and gravedancer, I posted a reply to your inquiries on yesterday's blog.

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