Prof. Allen Levine makes a number of compelling points about combating world hunger ("It's world hunger (and it's our world)," Aug. 21).
However, he neglects a key point -- because it is our world. He does not mention population control. The fewer people there are, the fewer resources will be used, even with a growing middle class.
Why is it anathema these days to talk about population control?
CARRIE BASSETT, MINNEAPOLIS
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There's a serious disconnect when the problem identified is global hunger and the solution is more public funding for ethanol production.
Now, I don't necessarily disagree with funding better, more sustainable ethanol production, especially from something smarter than corn.
But that's not going to do much to address hunger in the short term, is it? In addition, Minnesota farmers don't really do much to feed the world's hungry.
Our chief products are things like corn and soybeans, and what's not used for corn ethanol and biodiesel is being sold for grains for animal feed. The folks buying feed grains for meat aren't the poor -- they are the well-off in those countries.
If we were to fund small farmer production of fruits and vegetables and noncommodity grains that people (and not animals) eat, things like millet or wheat, that would make a lot more sense.
DAVID WALLINGA, MINNEAPOLIS
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Legislators who are now taking paychecks for their shutdown work seem good at rationalizing ("They'll take the back pay after all," Aug. 23).
Rep. Roger Crawford, R-Mora, says he had merely deferred his income because he didn't think it right to get the money while state employees were laid off.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, thinks he should get to keep 50 percent because some state employees got unemployment compensation. Dear Mr. Winkler: You did the shutdown to yourself; state workers had it done to them.
Several legislators say they are donating their pay to charities of their choice. Workers who lost money during the shutdown wish they could afford to make donations to their favorite charities, so these legislators shouldn't expect too many pats on the back.
It appears our legislators have some creative problem-solving skills after all. Let's hope they apply them to the state budget next time around. Otherwise, the voters may need to do some rationalizing.
J.H. FONKERT, ST. PAUL
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The Star Tribune is right in saying in its Aug. 21 editorial ("Keep eye on health care experiment") that Minnesota's health plans do need increased scrutiny, especially because of the tens of thousands of new enrollees they are expected to gain over the next year.
As we saw at the Capitol and read in the press during this last legislative session, these health maintenance organizations know they profit off of our public health care programs and go to great lengths to avoid transparency and accountability.
Along with ongoing scrutiny, an immediate step should be taken to ensure that our public dollars for health care are actually going for health care. That step? A cap on HMO reserves.
Over the past decade, the four largest health plans in our state -- Blue Cross, Medica, HealthPartners and UCare -- have collected more than $500 million in surplus reserves.
That's money over and above what they need to maintain financial stability, and that's money that should be going for care.
Now, as we start to funnel more people into the plans, it's time to reinstate a cap on these private surpluses.
It's a guaranteed way to begin the important task of taking a long, hard look at the role that private HMOs are playing in our state's public health care system, and it's high time we put it back into law.
JOHN VIACRUCIS, MOORHEAD, MINN.
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The Aug. 15 editorial ("Pawlenty fails with Bachmann's GOP"), highlighting Tim Pawlenty's failure in Iowa, brings up an interesting observation, namely that something has changed in the GOP.
Ever since conservatives began their tirades on talk radio and Fox News, it gave the lowest common denominator who feels powerless a voice.
In times of great stress, people crave simplicity and someone to blame. Life becomes black or white, not gray and complex. Repeat simplistic messages over and over and people start to believe it.
The general public is smarter than this, however, and knows people like Michele Bachmann (a flash in the pan) don't respect diversity of thought.
Unless we realize that it takes strength to hear and understand another point of view, to compromise and to take decisive action, we might as well elect a robot for president.
SHARON E. CARLSON, ANDOVER
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Dear Rep. Michele Bachmann,
I heard your comment "Write out a big fat check now!" about Warren Buffet's Aug. 16 opinion piece ("Please tax me. I can take it").
Obviously, Warren could afford to do that with his wealth, but what would that solve? We'd get a drop in the debt bucket, and no long-term solution to the problem.
Does it not seem more logical to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts on the huge earners and create an ongoing revenue stream?
I was just thinking ... and obviously you weren't.
PAUL SCHULTZ, HAM LAKE