Settler remembrances are also worthy of note


The press has given good coverage to planned Dakota events during the 150th commemoration of the U.S.-Dakota War, but readers may want to know how settler descendants honored their ancestors. On Aug. 18, more than 150 Renville County descendants gathered in Morton, Minn., at the Renville County Historical Society.

They unveiled a plaque honoring and memorializing Birch Coulie ancestors who died or were captured and those who escaped. One of the items on the program was a unity prayer that addressed opportunities to heal the divisions that remain from the conflict.

That same day, another large group representing the Lundborg-Broberg families of Kandiyohi County met in New London and honored their ancestors by placing a memorial wreath at the graves of the 13 settlers who lost their lives on Aug. 20, 1862

. A third group gathered on a family farm in Birch Coulie Township near the Redwood Ferry property and represented the Quinn and Martell families. I'm sure there were others who met to honor and remember their family's place in Minnesota history.


The writer is cochair of Family and Friends of Dakota Uprising Victims.

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Trains (of the freight variety) are needed


The Great Northern and Milwaukee Road railroads were responsible for the development of Minnesota, bringing its grain and lumber to eastern markets. Railroads are still the most cost-efficient and environmentally sound way to move cargo.

The serenity that Larry Nielson so desperately desires in the Mississippi River Valley ("Trains, trains -- get them on out of this place," Aug. 23) has not existed since 1879. The only valid argument he has is that high-speed rail should not use the river valley as its route. High-speed rail is a boondoggle that will need operating subsidies of billions of dollars for the foreseeable future. It should not be built -- for economic reasons, not because it interferes with Nielson's conversations.


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Efforts are needed, but so is perspective


As a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, I applaud its Eco-Village project in River Falls, Wis. ("Sustainable & affordable," Aug. 23). More energy-efficient building is important as we deal with global warming and the rising cost and pollution from conventional fuels.

But there are reasons that "the Eco-Village is expected to be the biggest net-zero project in the country, meaning it won't consume more energy than it produces." To start, there are no net-zero housing complexes in the country, so it is easy to be the biggest. Even in the Arizona desert, the sun produces meaningful solar panel energy only for about six to seven hours out of 24. Powering all our electric appliances, devices and heat pumps around the clock requires help from the grid.

Geothermal heat pump systems are useful, but their pumps are driven by a 50-amp grid-connected circuit. And on a cold, dark, Minnesota winter night, supplemental heat is often required.

Despite billions in subsidies, solar energy provides about one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. electric energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that on a per-megawatt-hour-produced basis, solar gets $63 in subsidies vs. 39 cents for fossil fuels and $1.79 for nuclear.

We need to continue research on renewables like wind and solar, but we also need to maintain perspective on what these low-density intermittent energy sources can actually provide.


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Sanctions don't seem entirely off-base


An Aug. 22 letter writer says that she has never had a criticism from anyone involved in the kind of insurance option that is now being fined by the state: the option to leave a survivor's benefit in a special account that can be drawn upon like a checking account.

My mother had such an account following the death of my father. It worked fine while she was alive, but following her death, I, as trustee of her estate, was not able to write a check for the balance, as I could do with her bank account.

Without the help of an attorney, I would probably have relinquished the balance to the insurance company. It would have been subject to probate, with fees amounting to nearly as much as the remaining dollars. I wonder if some insurance companies haven't benefited when other heirs have simply abandoned remaining dollars in such accounts, rather than going through the hassle and expense of trying to recover the money.


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If you're interested, here's a book to read


Ramesh Ponnuru's "mutual indignation society" (Aug. 22) gives us a good look in the mirror. If we can see in ourselves what we dislike in others, we can jump off the indignation unmerry-go-round. We may continue to disagree, but we can do so respectfully.

I am reading Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," and am having a conversion experience. I may never stop being a liberal, but I can stop feeling superior about it. Both sides use reason to justify beliefs, not to know the truth. No wonder having the facts doesn't change anything! Haidt (rhymes with "height") says that extreme partisanship may be literally addictive. I wish this book were a bestseller, but it's not an easy read. If only Haidt did talk radio.


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To clarify, antibiotics won't help in this case


I love Steve Sack's work, but I wanted to correct a medical misconception that I noted in his Aug. 22 cartoon, which shows the Swine Barn at the State Fair with a booth next door that sells "Antibiotics-on-a-Stick." The problem is that the swine flu is a virus, specifically the influenza virus, and will not respond to antibiotics, which are used to treat bacteria. The medically correct sign should say, "Antivirals-on-a-Stick." I just wanted to clarify this subject, so the public isn't confused.