Swine barn risk is low for general population


We want to thank Minnesota Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger and the Star Tribune for publishing his rational response to the H3N2v influenza debate regarding swine at the Minnesota State Fair ("Pigs and proportion," Aug. 28). Ehlinger and other health officials concurred that the risk to the general population was low and agreed that exhibition of swine at the State Fair should be allowed. It is unfortunate that the lone dissenting opinion from Dr. Michael Osterholm received so much attention ("This year, it seems, it's 'risk on' with swine flu," Aug. 26).

As veterinarians and co-chairs of the CHS Miracle of Birth Center at the State Fair, we are concerned about the potential for influenza virus to pass from pigs to people, but also believe that the risk is low. Although 50 million to 80 million people have attended fairs across the country this year, only 277 human cases of H3N2v have been reported, and only a small percentage of those cases occurred in casual fair attendees.

Our goal at CHS is to provide visitors with a safe and pleasant experience while visiting the exhibit. The public needs to understand that farmers and veterinarians are welfare advocates who strive to keep animals clean, comfortable and healthy. Our ultimate goal is to provide the world with a safe and wholesome food supply.

None of us want to see anyone become ill from something they pick up at the fair, but that risk must be weighed against the innate risks of inviting 1.7 million people to gather together over a 12-day period.


* * *

Thank you to the person who found my cellphone at the State Fair. Last night I was at the fair with my kids, when I noticed that I had lost the phone. Somewhere in the chaos of keeping three kids in Pronto Pups and ride tickets, I had set my phone down, and I had no idea where. About 30 minutes later, I went to the lost-and-found building, and there it was. Someone had gone to great lengths to redial the last person I had spoken to, and then kept trying until they got in touch with my wife to let her know they had found it. It was such a pleasant reminder that the random acts of kindness from a stranger can mean so much.


* * * 


Progress is slow to take hold in corporate world


Fourteen years ago, I wrote my Ph.D. theses at the University of Minnesota on women with master's in business administration at mid-career. The topic of women's advancement (and salary, titles, work satisfaction, autonomy and work/life balance) is near and dear to my heart still. Since then, not much has changed for women.

They make up only 37 percent of MBA programs and, as the Economist article indicated, their numbers in higher-level management jobs and on for-profit boards do not come close to their representation in MBA programs ("What holds women back from top jobs?," Aug. 27).

There are many reasons why women aren't in those positions. They may opt out for less demanding jobs, open their own businesses, or choose to work for nonprofits. Also, seeing their male colleagues advance faster and receiving higher salaries is quite frustrating.

Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in the Atlantic opened the conversation anew about women, work and life balance; the guilt that mothers feel about staying at home and not contributing monetarily, and the guilt about working and not being there for their children.

As a psychologist with a specialty in career counseling and work issues, I hear these frustrations. The article correctly illustrated that companies care less about a person's home life, and more about the bottom line, which is necessary.

What I think companies are not doing is recognizing the costs of losing and replacing valuable women who leave. If they want to retain women and their investment in them, attitudes about part-time, flex-time, job sharing, working from home and in-house day care, have to change. Also, partners have to assume more of the daily responsibility at home. There is some progress, but it's slow.

I have no doubt that Marissa Mayer will turn around Yahoo, but not while literally "holding a newborn on her knee." She, too, will feel the pang of having to make choices about work and family.


* * *


Legality, not normalcy, is the critical factor

The Letter of the Day regarding the Minnesota State University, Mankato, football coach misses the point ("However porn charges play out, coach's videos were not normal," Aug. 29). The issue isn't whether the acts described are "not normal," or whether most of us can look at it and say, "Well, I wouldn't have done that."

The issue is whether these acts justify dragging someone into the criminal justice system with one of the vilest labels we can apply to a human being. Nowhere in the news reports has there been the slightest hint that anything erotic or lustful was involved in this case.

The case has every appearance of being an overreaction fearing society's current penchant for scape goating and after-the-fact fault finding. When the dust finally settles on this one, we will probably find that no good has been served but lives have been destroyed.


* * *


Keep Xcel customers out of subsidy game


So Xcel Energy is going to be forced to continue giving subsidies to their customers who install solar power systems ("State signals that Xcel can't drop solar subsidies," Aug. 29).

Rebecca Lundberg, CEO of the solar installer Powerfully Green, says that these subsidies will "stabilize the business."

Is using money taken from Xcel's customers, as ballast to stabilize the sinking ship that is the solar power business, really a good idea?

If nobody will buy their product without receiving a bribe of money taken from other Xcel customers, perhaps solar companies should find a way to manufacture and sell their products at a price consumers will actually pay, or be allowed to gracefully close their doors as would any other failing enterprise.