It's up to all of us to end sex abuse


Wednesday's headlines included Jerry Sandusky -- still unrepentant and blaming victims -- and, locally, a story identifying a three-year "relationship" between an underage exchange student and her teacher, who killed himself after being dismissed from his job. (This on the heels of a former teacher at the same school, Shattuck-St. Mary's, charged with sexually abusing six boys between 1999 and 2003.) Still another story detailed charges of possession of child pornography brought against the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, who sexually abused two boys in his parish, showed them porn and offered them drugs.

This is what I read as I prepared for work -- my work of ending child sexual abuse and exploitation. This work must be all of our work. It is time to prioritize children over organizations. It's time to challenge the normalization of treating children as sexual objects in pornography and mainstream media. It's time for those of us with direct experience to help others escape the silence and join a movement for prevention. It's time each and every one of us demands a change for children.


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'Freedom to Breathe': Measurable change


Wade Yarbrough's counterpoint article about the Freedom to Breathe Act accuses state Sen. Kathy Sheran of using statistics "more for support than illumination." Actually, statistics are far more illuminating than Yarbrough's anecdotes. The many studies on Freedom to Breathe show the benefits are enormous and go further than popularity.

Before the law, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield report showed that secondhand smoke exposure caused more than 500 deaths a year in Minnesota. Since then, the University of Minnesota found an 85 percent decrease in tobacco-specific carcinogens in the bodies of hospitality workers -- the people most affected by workplace smoking before the law. A Mayo Clinic study also found substantial decreases in heart attacks following the law.

Additional studies show a drop of 11 percentage points in overall secondhand-smoke exposure, as well as more people -- including smokers -- voluntarily making their homes smoke-free.

It's true the hospitality industry is volatile. But another study by the U found that employment levels in Minnesota bars and restaurants actually remained stable after going smoke-free. Those who initially opposed the law accepted it respectfully, and recent news coverage has featured owners and managers stating that going out is now a more positive experience for their customers and workers.

Statistics aren't simply numbers, and in this case they show the true and very positive impacts this law has had on real Minnesotans all over this state.


The writer is CEO of ClearWay Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce secondhand smoke.

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To which country will we compare?


It is interesting to me to look at the places where same-sex marriage is legal.

Holland was the first country in 2000. Other countries followed, including Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010) and Portugal (2010).

In Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan, not only are same-sex relationships illegal, the penalty can include punishment by death.

Which countries do we as Minnesotans feel reflect our values and principles?

Which standards would we want our children to see us support?


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Consider who really can swing the vote


Leonard Steinhorn's Oct. 9 commentary ("Noncitizens could swing an election") was impressive for the detail of his data and the depth of his analysis. However, if you really are worried about the effect that noncitizens are having on our elections, focus on the vast amount of money that certain noncitizens, namely, all corporations, are injecting into the process. The skewing effect of the electoral college is paltry by comparison.


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Steinhorn persuasively proves the existence of two distortions caused by the electoral college: (1) that states with more noncitizen residents have disproportionate effect on the presidential vote because electoral votes depend on the census count of the number of total residents rather than the number of citizen residents, and (2) that because both large-population and small-population states receive the same two additional electoral votes for their senators, the electing power of each vote in Wyoming or Alaska exceeds the power of each vote in California or New York. But his proposal that the Electoral College be abandoned in favor of a count of the nationwide popular vote is totally unacceptable.

Assume another state with the same number of residents as Minnesota. As it now stands, "State X" and Minnesota each have 10 Electoral College votes. If Minnesota insists, as it has as part of its quality of life, that its elections are squeaky-clean and scrupulously honest, its 10 votes accurately reflect what its voters have decreed. If State X is less scrupulous, to such an extent that it stuffs 100,000 fraudulent ballots into its boxes, under the current system only its own 10 electoral votes can be corrupted. But if there were a so-called nationwide popular vote, certain to be locally administered, the fraudulent votes from State X could spill over and dilute the voting power of Minnesota's honest voting, and perhaps even corrupt the entire election.

By accident or by intent, our nation's founders created this lock against corruption. It works with only minor inconvenience. It should not be changed.