Amid oil boom, women are facing real risks

As a Williston, N.D., hometown girl, I can tell you firsthand that Maya Rao’s June 3 commentary (“Oil boom putting pressure on women”), both in tone and placement — on the front page of the Variety section, like it’s entertainment — trivialized the unsafe, even deadly, city Williston has become for its women and girls.

Last year, I went home for my grandmother’s funeral. I told my dad I’d come early to spend time with relatives in the area, all near the oil-boom epicenter. Dad: “No, bad idea.” Me: “Why?” Dad: “If your car broke down and you needed help? You just can’t trust people here now, especially if you’re a woman. It’s not safe.”

Women and girls are being harassed, assaulted and even raped by men seeking oil jobs in western North Dakota. Parents are advising their daughters to “look ugly.” Family and friends in Williston tell me that most of the crimes go unreported because of shame that they’ll be blamed for what happened and out of fear of retaliation. This is not what I want for the girls and women in my hometown, or anywhere.

The reality? Rao has the luxury of heading back to her relatively safe neighborhood and home in Minneapolis, while girls and women in Williston are just doing their best to stay safe from harm.

Erin Ceynar, Minneapolis

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Left believes it has a lock on verisimilitude

As an independent voter who leans right, I am amused by the left’s accusations that Republicans overreach when investigating IRS harassment and the murder of a U.S. diplomat. Certainly, some Republicans overreach; but that’s what politicians do. In the current scandals, some Democrats are lying, and some Republicans are overreaching. Let’s see … which do I worry more about? By writing a letter to the editor, do I risk being audited by the IRS?

Speaking of overreach, Jon Tevlin’s column in the June 2 regional news section, twice mentioned the way Michele Bachmann dressed, and it repeated a Sarah Palin canard. Incidentally, I don’t like the federal government telling me what kind of light bulb I must use, and I’m not buying that Republicans lie any more than do Democrats, as PolitiFact would have me believe. Bachmann has voiced her share of weird ideas, similar to Maxine Waters, Alan Grayson and Al Sharpton.

Dan Decker, Golden Valley

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Case by case, removing power from the people

Our Supreme Court is making my head spin. We have learned under their auspices that corporations are people, that money is speech, and now that it’s constitutional to maintain a people registry (by harvesting their DNA) while the majority justices’ ideological lay brethren argue that a gun registry is unconstitutional. It’s going to be interesting to see how long before “people” are totally extracted from the Constitution.

Tom Obert, Alexandria, Minn.

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University appreciates state leaders’ efforts

When the legislative session began, the University of Minnesota outlined an aggressive plan to keep college within reach for Minnesota’s families and to partner with the state to solve some of our society’s most challenging problems.

Thanks to university President Eric Kaler’s leadership, and to the commitment of policymakers to investing in higher education, Minnesota undergraduate students will benefit from a tuition freeze at all five University of Minnesota campuses for the next two academic years. That’s a savings of about $2,500 per student.

Meanwhile, Minnesota industries will grow thanks to new investments in research and innovation at the University. Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature invested in critical scientific advances in food production and protection, robotics, water quality and addressing brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This cutting-edge research will improve lives in Minnesota communities and around the world, and will spark new and growing industries in our state.

These investments in the university are good news for our state. Thank you, Gov. Dayton and our legislative leaders, including Higher Education Chairs Sen. Terri Bonoff and Rep. Gene Pelowski, for investing in students and keeping our economy strong.

Linda Cohen, chair; University of Minnesota Board of Regents

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If this were Seattle …

Bill McAuliffe’s article “As May fades to gray, we’re kind of blue” (May 31) made it sound like you guys are a bunch of wimps not being able to take the gray skies of spring. His reference to the Twin Cities as being “like Seattle” was especially funny, since it is not uncommon for 90 straight days without sun here in the Northwest.

Yeah, our suicide rate may spike a bit in the winter and we may have webbed feet, but at least we don’t cry about it. Come on, Minnesotans — buck up. By the way; it is 68 and clear skies here as I write, with no rain in sight for the next week. Mount Rainier is out in all its glory, and the Pacific is as calm as a quiet Minnesota lake.

Tom Lindberg, Kirkland, Wash.

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If this were Canada …

In May, we took a trip out east with our fifth-wheel RV. The trip included a stop southeast of Montreal, Canada, to visit some friends, so we traveled through the southern provinces of Ontario and Quebec. And we were pleasantly surprised as to the quality of the highways — much smoother and less potholes than the highways, tollways and freeways in the lower 48. In the past six months, we have traveled in 19 different states, and we can find the potholes with our RV.

The politicians from both the federal government and the lower 48 states should visit Canada and find out how Canadians budget and pay for their infrastructure.

Ron Hockin, Inver Grove Heights