Readers Write: (Aug. 12): Lake Harriet water quality, ebola risks, the CIA, the Catholic Church,

  • Updated: August 11, 2014 - 6:00 PM

How do I know? Because of what I just saw.


Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

Photo: TOM WALLACE • Star Tribune,

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On Saturday, I saw a frog hop into Lake Harriet. For six decades, I’ve walked and biked along the lake going to and from work, jogging, attending concerts at the band shell and, lately, pushing the grandkid in a stroller. Over the last few years, I’ve seen wildlife return that was missing during my youth. Turkeys strut the parkway. Foxes pad across the ice. Loons stay all summer instead of migrating through. Egrets, herons, woodchucks and a stately bald eagle my wife named Denver have made their appearance. Once I even saw a large iguana staring down from a tree near the south beach (probably not indigenous). But I’ve never seen a frog, not even the flattened remnants of one.

Frogs are special. They can’t live on concrete and asphalt. They don’t do well in polluted water. Just about everything else likes to eat them. It may just be that I haven’t been observant, but I’m taking this as a good sign that the lakes and lawns, and the little puddles and places amphibians hang out, are getting healthier. After all, I just saw a frog hop across the path and plop into Lake Harriet.

John Widen, Minneapolis


Confidence is a risk; containment a strategy

Panic in the face of a lethal infectious threat is to be avoided. Complacency or a false sense of security is more dangerous. The overall tone of the Aug. 10 editorial (“State is well-armed to tackle Ebola risk”) was falsely reassuring. I have the utmost respect for Michael Osterholm, but do not share his faith, nor that of others, that the United States faces minimal risk. Current international Ebola management practices defy reasoned risk/benefit analysis and assume more certainty in screening and control than exists.

“It can’t be emphasized enough that Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids and that people who were recently infected but are not symptomatic don’t appear to be contagious,” the editorial stated. Symptoms are reported by individuals — some individuals are unreliable in recognizing or communicating symptoms. Some don’t sense fevers, weakness or headache — others, for a host of reasons, deny their symptoms. Tylenol makes checking body temperatures a deficient screening method — even if normal temperature was a 100 percent indicator of noninfected status (it is not).

Disease presentations are variable and human effort fallible (diagnostics, protocols, preparedness). Atypical presentations of disease are common.

Respect for the virulence of Ebola supports aggressive steps to prevent its spread — yes, even consideration of flight restrictions. Containment is the first step to minimize worldwide risk.

Tom Combs, Plymouth


The writer is a retired physician.



How it does its job is of utmost importance

An Aug. 9 letter stating that “as private citizens, we certainly don’t need ‘transparency’ of any detailed ‘interrogation’ torture operation,” and suggesting that we let the CIA do its job of protecting our national security, was flawed on at least two counts.

Morally, we not only violate our own code of ethics when acting as our enemies do, but violate a principle in ethics itself that states that the ends do not usually justify the means, if ever. (Niccolò Machiavelli, in the 15th and 16th centuries, would no doubt have agreed with the letter writer’s belief that preserving the state must be accomplished with whatever means necessary, torture included.) Preserving our democracy by any means makes us ideologues, no better than any other terrorist group.

The second flaw was the failure to recognize the long-term consequences of the flagrant disregard of our own laws: We lose (have already lost?) the respect and trust of significant allies throughout the world.

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