Are politicians on the side of citizens?

We’re a country that has truly become a theocracy when our members of Congress believe in myths like the National Security Agency’s PRISM program being a viable way to acquire intelligence on terrorists. No one knows how effective the “total information awareness” massive surveillance of phone calls, e-mails and Internet data has been in identifying actual terrorists.

Languages, written or spoken, have so many variations, inflections, typos and codes that it takes a bit if naïveté to think the program, however sophisticated, could not be circumvented.

But we do know how government snooping can be abused for political purposes and can be expected to worsen with time. Instead of prosecution, Edward Snowden (“Ex-CIA worker: I’m the leak,” June 10), Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and others should be commended for trying to prevent “Big Brother” from taking over here.


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The disclosure about the NSA data collection has led to some ironic opinions on the matter. Many politicians have proclaimed that this surveillance is no big deal because they “have nothing to hide.” The irony is that the same politicians say we can’t have universal background checks for guns on law-abiding citizens. Being that gun deaths and injuries dwarf the threat of terrorism, can someone explain this huge gap in logic?


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One voice that I expected to quickly enter the conversation is that of U.S. Sen. Al Franken. As many of you know, he has been one of the only senators to actively engage on the issues of privacy in the digital age — including sponsorship of bills like the Location Privacy Protection Act, about which he stated: “I believe that Americans have the fundamental right to control who can track their location, and whether or not that information can be given to third parties …”

Where, then, is his voice and advocacy for the individual’s right to privacy regarding the collection of data related to our phone calls, e-mails, text messages and browsing history by the federal government? His statements to date have been about “the basic architecture of the programs.”

It would be a tragic shame if Franken was more concerned about infractions to our privacy when corporations try to send us coupons, rather than our privacy rights outlined by the fourth amendment.


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Not an equally attainable goal

Alan Stone, who lost more than 100 pounds through diet and exercise, writes in the June 10 Letter of the Day (“Get in shape, but do it the real, sustainable way”) that “anyone can do what I have done.” He has accomplished a tremendous feat and is rightly proud of it, but unfortunately his statement just isn’t true. There are no simple solutions to a complex issue that disproportionately affects people of nonwhite ethnicity or lower income.

Many people lack access to safe outdoor environments or fresh food; healthier lifestyles can be more expensive and require an investment of time and familial support that not everyone has. Even with support, some people will not succeed without medical intervention such as bypass surgery. We need to stop judging people for their weight and start understanding that multiple approaches are needed to address obesity.


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Oil boom men do have manners

I work in the oil fields of North Dakota. Daily, I encounter men of all ages and races. These men are tired and overworked but always open a door and say hi. Most of the time, all they want is someone to talk with or sit down and drink a cup of coffee.

My coworker Josh said it isn’t the oil, it’s the lack of family values and no activities for the men to do. Men are working 80 to 110 hours a week, and we have limited laundry facilities here. We expanded overnight and have large stretch marks.

Recent coverage in the Star Tribune does nothing to help us progress to gain employees (“Oil boom putting pressure on women,” June 3). Companies do extensive background checks. Most companies provide housing.

The towns and companies are working to help with the issues. I would say the statement that North Dakota’s oil boom puts pressure on women is a joke. Baker Hughes has family housing. My son’s company is working with other oil companies to help donate to schools and recreation.

When my car broke down late at night, it was the guys from Key Energy of Minot who made sure I got home safely. These men have families and children.

Our communities get together to have meetings on the fast progress and what we need to do to make life better. Why did the Star Tribune focus on bars and strip clubs?

There are five women who work with me, and we all thought this article was pointless. I feel safer in the Bakken than near the old Sears building in Minneapolis.