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Continued: Readers Write: (Dec. 23): Lebanon Hills, climate change, spying, college degrees, making lefse

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  • Last update: December 22, 2013 - 6:29 PM

Another prediction of doom bites the ice

On Dec. 13, 2008, in Saarland, Germany, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore stated that the “entire north polar ice cap will be gone in five years.”

He was not alone in that view — other “experts” were making similar predictions.

But the ice cap is still alive and well, and as of Dec. 13, 2013, it was larger than the entire United States, including Alaska. It is also more than half a million square miles bigger than last year at this date. So don’t book a cruise ship tour over the North Pole just yet.

You can get to the pole by joining the U.S. Navy and getting assigned to one of our nuclear submarines, like the newly christened USS Minnesota. They regularly make the 1,900-mile trip under the Arctic Ice Cap, powered solely by their reliable nuclear power plants.

ROLF WESTGARD, St. Paul

SPYING

The price we paid to get whatever it is we got

To the calculations about the impact of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, add these hard numbers: $4.5 billion. According to Reuters, that’s the amount of a contract Brazil has just awarded to SAAB to build 36 fighter jets. Boeing had been favored to get the contract, but “Snowden ruined it for the Americans,” according to a Brazilian official quoted by Reuters.

Reuters did not estimate the number of American jobs that might be lost or never created as a result, but the number is clearly substantial. When we consider the potential value of intelligence that may be gained through eavesdropping on other countries, we should also factor in the political and economic costs when our actions see the light of day.

RICHARD VIRDEN, Plymouth

COLLEGE DEGREES

It’s not the piece of paper that matters

A Dec. 13 article on graduation rates at the University of Minnesota (“U grad rates go from failing to middling”) takes it as an unquestionable axiom that higher graduation rates are better than lower ones.

As one who has earned three degrees from the university, I cannot deny that for many people, degrees have some value. However, an emphasis on grades and degrees leads many students to treat the learning of the subject matter of a course as merely a price paid to get a grade rather than the thing they showed up for. That is not education. A student who attends for three years and leaves without graduating may gain more from the experience than does another student who gets a degree, and should not be considered a failure for it.

MICHAEL HARDY, Minneapolis

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