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West Valley's nuclear waste

An editorial in today's News strongly objects to the federal government's "record of decision" on the West Valley Demonstration Project, which encompasses a former nuclear reprocessing plant, other facilities, and lagoon and storage areas.

The Department of Energy favors a phased-in approach that emphasizes containment and one that will undoubtedly prove costly over time.

Meanwhile, Lake Erie, which has tributary streams near West Valley feeding into it in a region with people heavily dependent upon water from the lake and Niagara River, requires protection.  The absence of a full cleanup means that the large collection of highly toxic nuclear wastes buried in or leaking from the plant site south of Buffalo could present a real danger.

The feds, who appear to have followed closely a flawed environmental impact statement, should have properly responded to the urgency of the matter.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is expected to release its own separate State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) decision by the end of the month.  It should be noted that NYSERDA had real problems with the environmental impact statement and it may follow up with its own, perhaps more palatable version of a phased-in approach.  However, state lawmakers and the governor should support a full and immediate cleanup of the site.

This is a complex issue with far-reaching consequences that will affect the public today and their grandchildren, tomorrow. 

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

The Pullet Surprise

   Some people pronounce it "Pull-it-zer." Some say "Pew-lit-zer."

   In my house, we say, "Missed it by that much."

   One afternoon in mid-April of 1998, I read the list of Pulitzer Prize winners on the AP wire, saw that I was not among them, and went off to my moonlighting job arguing on the radio. When I returned to the offices of The Salina Journal a couple of hours later, there was a message on my voice mail from the vice president Pulitzer_logo_400_100412 of the newspaper chain I worked for, mumbling something about me being a finalist for the Pulitzer in editorial writing and what was that all about.
   Turned out I was.
   They don't do the Pulitzers the way they do the Oscars. First, they announce the winner. Then, a few minutes later, the names of the other finalists [usually two of them] dribble out as well.
   I had been bold enough to enter my work -- 10 editorials on different local subjects -- into the World's Biggest Journalism Award when I noticed that some recent winners in that category were, like me, editorial page editors who ran one-man shops at community newspapers. [Little newspapers do win other categories, too.] Their work, like mine, was not a series on a single topic that forced change, but a variety of essays that, depending on the topic, were sad, happy, funny, cutting, sarcastic or philosophical. [No, I don't have a link. I don't even have the editorials.]
   The next morning, I was the lead story in my own newspaper. A little more than three years later, about two weeks after 9/11 and in fear of a looming recession, they declared the position of a full-time editorial page editor a luxury and fired me. I will always wonder if they'd have done that if I'd won. Probably.
   The winner that year, Bernard L. Stein, was another example of such an essayist. His paper (since sold) was The Riverdale Press, a family-owned weekly that served a relatively small neighborhood of New York City. His editorials were also a variety of writings. They were good. They deserved to win. [And it didn't hurt that one of his causes was free speech, always a Pulitzer favorite, and that his office was firebomed by someone apparently upset about Stein's editorial defense of Salman Rushdie and his novel "The Satanic Verses." Nobody was hurt, but it was really frightening. That's the kind of thing that really earns you bonus points from your fellow journalists.]

   The 2010 Pulitzers were announced Monday, which means I would have been thinking about all that   Cnelson anyway.
   But the wonderful news is that one of the three writers who is sharing this year's Pulitzer for editorial writing -- Colleen McCain Nelson [right] -- had been a high school intern for me in Salina back in the day. Now she's on the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News, and among a team that has been pounding away -- the Pulitzer citation calls them "relentless" --  writing editorials on the horrible economic and infrastructure differences between the wealthier North Dallas and the often poverty-stricken South Dallas. So I'm going to take a little credit for getting her career started.

   Other Pulitzer winners that matter [more] to readers of The Buffalo News are:
- Sarah Kaufman, of The Washington Post, a former writer at The Buffalo News, for Criticism
Kathleen Parker, a Post columnist whose work also appears in The News, for Commentary. [A choice that has stirred up some dissent.]
- Gene Weingarten, another Post writer who has recently been added to our Opinion section, for Feature Writing.
   Weingarten won this year for an article on parents whose children died when they were accidentally left behind in a car. He won the same prize a few years ago for a feature that is about as different as you can get -- staging, and writing about, a stunt where world-class violinist Joshua Bell stood in a Washington, D.C., Metrorail station, looking like any other street musician but playing like a dream, and watching as most passers-by ignored him completely.

Hmmmm. Maybe if I wander over to the train station and start humming...

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Editorial: Carl Paladino's candidacy

Some say politics is a blood sport. Well, in New York's gubernatorial race, it's just become a heck of a spectator sport as well.

After due consideration, The News reacts editorially today to Carl Paladino's candidacy, officially announced this week. Here it is, in a nutshell: Hey, Carl, welcome to the race!

We're not endorsing him or anybody else in this contest, yet. We generally don't endorse in primaries on the grounds that candidate selection is party business, not a general election (at least in this state, where crossover voting isn't allowed). We make exceptions only when the primary is tantamount to a general election -- as in the Democratic primaries for City of Buffalo positions.

But this is an interesting candidacy. Paladino is clearly a bomb-thrower -- that's what may make this such a spectator event -- and that means he'll keep some critically important state management and fiscal issues on the front burner, where they belong. As our editorial concludes, it will be good for New Yorkers to have someone in this race who can channel their justifiable anger.

We'll also say this: We love the word "gubernatorial."  But how come we don't call them Goobers?

Welcome to the city of our (Detroit and Buffalo's) future

Today's Mitch Albom column bemoans, in his usual satirical style, the Detroit that is by offering his version of what could be. You know, the one where there are no burned-out houses and people walk to work because they live in the city.

The piece is particularly striking because of natural comparisons to Buffalo. Albom is wistful about a city that contains outdoor walkways that are more conducive to cold-weather cities and where there isn't some unspoken notion that the urban core is supposed to be black and the suburbs white.

"In my Detroit, people no longer act as if the city is supposed to be black, the suburbs are supposed to be white, and the two are supposed to be at war with each other." Or, for that matter, concerned about a "certain element" of seniors crowding their suburbs.

How about the future?

"In my Detroit, all city contracts are reviewed by an ethics board to look for conflicts of interest, favoritism or cronyism, because if you catch it before it starts, it won't start." Priceless.

"In my Detroit, you cannot sit on vacant property in major development zones," Albom writes. "Either you develop it, or you get fined so badly you'll sell it to someone who will." Does that ring a bell, Niagara Falls?

Later, "In my Detroit, we make Windsor a bigger partner, because how many U.S. cities can offer such a gateway to Canadians?"

Well, Mitch, Buffalo can. And, in our Buffalo ...

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer 

Opinion: Ruth Marcus on Republican voyeurs

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post Writers Group reacts to the GOP bondage-club scandal (and if you think we're going to add a picture to this post, forget it):

 A woman did it.

Turns out the Republican National Committee staffer who accompanied a group of donors to Voyeur, a bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood, and then turned in an expense account seeking reimbursement for the nearly $2,000 tab, is one Allison Meyers, director -- make that former director -- of the RNC's Young Eagles program of donors under the age of 45.

I had assumed that the outing was a kind of frat-boys-being-frat-boys event, along the lines of a bachelor party. That it was a co-ed affair, and that the apparent group leader was a woman, only makes the whole mess even creepier.

     As described by the Los Angeles Times, the club, "inspired by the film 'Eyes Wide Shut,' is intended to be 'risque and provocative' and 'a combination of intimidation and sexuality,' " in the words of partner David Koral. "Scantily clad performers play out bondage and sadomasochistic 'scenes' during the night." On opening night, the Times said, "One female performer with a horse's bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another."

Call me naive, call me prudish, but what is any self-respecting woman, anyone who wants to be taken seriously professionally, doing at a place like this -- no less putting it on the company tab? According to an RNC e-mail on the episode, "that person (Meyers) was aware that this activity was not eligible for reimbursement and had been previously counseled on this very subject. Accordingly, that staff person has been terminated." This activity -- do they mean she's tried to bill for strip club visits before?

Snicker about the episode, if you will, but there is a troubling history to professional women and strip clubs. Entertaining clients at strip clubs was a popular practice on Wall Street until women started winning sex discrimination suits complaining about the practice as part of a larger pattern of unequal treatment and a hostile work environment.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO now running for the U.S. Senate from California, describes in her memoir, "Tough Choices," how she was disinvited to an important lunch back in the early 1980s when it turned out the clients wanted to go to a strip club. "I had no idea what I was supposed to do in this situation," she writes. "I couldn't tell myself it didn't matter -- it clearly was important to meet these clients and to convince (her boss) that I should be taken seriously. It never occurred to me to be outraged and demand that they not go -- it wouldn't have worked anyway."

Fiorina decided to go along, "tried to sound knowledgeable . . . and desperately tried to ignore what was going on all around me" -- her drunk boss calling over women to perform lap dances. The "next day in the office," she concludes, "the balance of power had shifted perceptibly. I had shown (her bosses) that I would not be intimidated, even if I was terrified."

I don't quite see this as the victory Fiorina does: Why should she have had to grin and bear the lap dances to get ahead? Three decades later, Allison Meyers with her flock of eagles at Voyeur is even more troubling. Either she felt pressured to go along with the boys -- in which case we haven't come a long way after all. Or she thought it was a big hoot to watch, as The Washington Post described it, "topless dancers wearing horse bridles and other bondage gear while mimicking sex acts" -- in which case we've slid way, way back.

- Ruth Marcus