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

EBOLA OUTBREAK

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.

 

THE CIA

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.

The concept of “inalienable rights” of all human beings is a principle that trumps national boundaries. I would ask the letter writer, who states that “our enemies continue to practice far worse tortures,” what the line is that we would have to cross to become like our enemies. I suggest we have already crossed that line.

Mike Sirany, Roseville

• • •

A recent commentary (“Our nation’s direction turns on a preposition,” Aug. 7) spoke of the difference between rule of law and rule by law; now the Aug. 9 letter writer has given us a third choice: rule without law.

John Norblom, Minneapolis

 

CATHOLIC CHURCH

Careful that ‘righteous anger’ isn’t a punt

Righteous anger, as expressed by an Aug. 10 letter writer, can move mountains. However, if expressed wrongly, it can hurt others while providing an abstraction from the overall mission of the organization.

Though I am upset with Archbishop John Nienstedt’s decision to stay in office, I will not leave my faith or stay away, because doing so would deprive individuals and groups of my service while I live out my Catholic faith. Leaving would be giving away too much power. And it would deny me the support of continuing to participate in the sacraments and community.

Since last year, I have chosen to write to those involved, including people around them, expressing in frank terms my take on the situation. If more people did this, rather than run and hide in “righteous anger,” maybe something would be accomplished.

It is incumbent upon a manager (say, the archbishop) coming into an organization to identify historical and current issues and ensure that they are properly addressed. Judging by his statements and lack of knowledge, Archbishop Neinstedt did not perform that basic function of management. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops addressed this subject in 1992 and established guidelines in 1994 that were to be followed in preventing further problems. It is apparent that Neinstedt did not take them seriously. That was his mistake — and one he must own. I have no confidence in his ability to effectively manage.

Remember, Target Corp. CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned not necessarily because of direct managerial incompetence but because of a bad outcome under his management. That takes humility. And it was only about money. Far more is at stake here.

Art Thell, Inver Grove Heights

• • •

I am a practicing Catholic who did not walk away from my parish community, nor did I stop supporting my parish and the many social service programs funded by the archdiocese because of the priest sex abuse. I cannot see how “leaving the pews and collection plates empty” helps correct anything. Instead, I stay connected, volunteer in outreach programs and donate so that all of this work can continue. One can only be effective inside an institution. Once outside, you no longer have a say.

Karen Brenteson, Brooklyn Park