Hats off to the Star Tribune for its coverage of the Minnesota Orchestra and its choir in South Africa (“Soweto concert is an ode to joy — in many languages,” Aug. 18, and other articles). The trip appears to have been nothing short of transformative for these men and women and their counterparts in Soweto and beyond.

I looked forward to reading each story by Jenna Ross with anticipation as she relayed the experiences these musicians and singers were sharing and the bonds they formed with their brothers and sisters in South Africa. For those of us who came of age politically during the anti-apartheid movement, these stories were even more poignant.

At a time when so many newspapers are cutting back — or worse, closing their doors — thank you for investing in this coverage. And thank you to the anonymous couple who donated funds to support this extraordinary trip. Reading about it renewed my faith not only in the power of music, but in our capacity to open our hearts and minds across such wide divides.

SUZANNE DONOVAN, West St. Paul

KEITH ELLISON

No dismissal of domestic-abuse allegations without investigation

A complete inquiry into the allegations against Minnesota attorney general candidate and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is warranted. We cannot just turn a blind eye to someone because of popularity or any other reason (“No judgment without verification,” Readers Write, Aug. 18, and other coverage). His accuser deserves to be heard and respected. Background evaluations by the DFL Party or others could include behavior analysis of his denial following her CBS interview. Lots of eye-twitching and assertions expected to be believed on their face because he said so. Let’s give the same respect to his open-eyed accuser and believe her, too.

Cherie Riesenberg, St. Paul

THE ROLE OF THE PRESS

Editorial said it clearly, then commentaries mucked it up

I applaud the Aug. 16 editorial defending the essential responsibility of a free press to report on the issues and the news of the day. A free press, unfettered by anything but the facts, is an essential element of a democracy. But then the Star Tribune published articles that are neither factual nor truthful. Two examples in two days:

1) “How Trump is helping Obamacare’s victims” (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 19), by Health and Human Services Secretary A.M. Azar II. Terms like “skyrocketing subsidies” deserve very close scrutiny and fact-checking. That’s a campaign term without substantiation. Azar’s claims that the unsubsidized insurance market lost 40 percent of its clients in one year because of the Affordable Care Act are not a fact. People probably left that market because they qualified for the subsidized ACA insurance or they got a new job that provided health insurance or other changes in family needs. Misinformation is the general rule in this article. It is promoting the idea of a cheap, bare-bones version of insurance that offers very little actual coverage — which you find out only when you need to use the insurance.

2) “Similar offenses, different fallout: What’s going on?” (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 19) by Hoover Institution historian Victor Davis Hanson. “We know that members of the FBI and DOJ misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by deliberately hiding critical facts about the Steele dossier.” No, we do not know that. We know they included the information that Hanson claims was left out. Hanson complains that Clinton’s campaign involved foreign collusion, but that the FBI doesn’t investigate. Wrong again. The FBI examined and found the claims to be baseless. The FBI closed the case. End of story. Hanson’s article should not have been on the front page of the Sunday Opinion Exchange section. Facts matter.

Billie Ann Reaney, Minneapolis

 

Editor’s note: The Star Tribune strives to publish a wide range of views on its opinion pages, understanding that writers will tend to marshal assertions that favor their arguments. As Thomas Jefferson said in his first inaugural address in 1801, “error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” And as the English philosopher and civil servant John Stuart Mill wrote in “On Liberty” (1859): “All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” Mill goes on to explain how silencing an opinion robs those who oppose it as much as those who hold it: “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

CHEMICALS IN CEREAL

To consider the risk, you also must consider the context

In response to an Aug. 18 letter writer who shames the Star Tribune for not publishing on the front page the short Aug. 16 item “Cancer-linked chemicals found in cereal”: “Cancer-linked,” “known to cause cancer” and “probably carcinogenic” are all ambiguous terms at best to describe Roundup, which is used extensively on corn and soybean fields to control weeds, thus improving yields. My question is: At what residue levels?

The letter writer cites 160 parts per billion in a 2-cup serving as the “child protective limit” recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which claims several oat cereals had up to nine times that amount. Through extensive replicated carcinogen studies over several years, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which sets tolerances for pesticide residue in food and water, found the permissible level to be 70 parts per million or 70,000 parts per billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registers all pesticides based on FDA testing. Alex Brezow, senior fellow of Biomedical Science at the American Council on Science & Health, a nonprofit group that says it advocates for evidence-based science and medicine, believes the EWG recommendation of 160 ppb is “absolutely atrocious” because nobody could eat enough cereal to cause cancer. Dr. Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at Cambridge University in the U.K., agrees, saying EWG’s recommendation is based on serious flaws in evidence and that, if there is any effect at all, it would be very small. Where is EWG’s toxicology info coming from? Whose science do you believe?

Dr. Bruce Ames, professor emeritus in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, co-authored a paper titled “Ranking of Possible Carcinogenic Hazards” that appeared in the April 1987 issue of Science magazine with 110 references. He said this ranking suggests that carcinogenic hazards from pesticide residues are likely to be of minimal concern relative to the background levels of naturally occurring toxic chemicals present in very small quantities in all plants, serving to protect them against fungi, insects and animal predators.

For instance, in 2011, he said a cup of coffee has 15 to 20 of these chemicals that test positive in animal cancer tests. Stop drinking coffee? Other items in Ames’ ranking include beer (ethyl alcohol), bacon (nitrasomines from preservatives), one hour in a swimming pool for a child (inhaling chloroform) and peanut butter (aflatoxins).

Certainly we want to ingest as little pesticide residue as possible, but until I see more toxicology info, I’ll keep on eating oat cereal, because the benefits far outweigh the minuscule risks. We need to continue research on Roundup toxicology, but at this time, I am confident our food is safe besides being wholesome and affordable.

Roger Wilkowske, Faribault

The writer is a retired University of Minnesota Extension educator.