U.S. is losing its edge as Congress plays games

After 25-plus years as an oncologist and cancer researcher, this is what I hear daily from patients: "What does the research show? Is there anything new for me?"

Here's what's happening to medical research in the United States. Research funding through our once-prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) is at an all-time low, as measured by the percentage of grants they are able to fund. This was the situation before the sequester. The sequester, which started in March 2013, cut another $2 billion from the NIH. Now with the government shutdown, the NIH is essentially closed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lost two-thirds of its employees because of the shutdown. Remember the fungal meningitis outbreak last year due to tainted steroids from the New England Compounding Center? The detective work to sort out that deadly situation came from the CDC. If a new, aggressive flu strain develops this fall, we need the CDC to track its path, identify it and help to prepare an effective vaccine.

Research labs are closing. Fewer and fewer people are pursuing careers in research. We will all pay dearly for this.

LYNN C. HARTMANN, M.D., Rochester

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This from Tuesday's Variety Section: "Essay contest encourages kids to work together." The contest, sponsored by Greater Twin Cities United Way and the Star Tribune, encourages kids in grades three through five to write about what they are doing to unite their neighborhoods and communities. One would think members of Congress could submit their entries. They are, after all, acting like children. But it's not their age that prevents them from entering. Participants are encouraged to be concise and inspirational, to give examples of what they have done to put others first, to make their communities a better place. Sorry, Congress, you're out. Good luck, kids!


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Say the two parties were switched around — Republicans in control of the presidency and the Senate, with Democrats in control of the House. And say the Democratic House speaker would not allow a vote on raising the debt limit until the Republicans agreed to fully fund government-paid universal health care for all U.S. citizens. I wonder what the reaction would be to this.

DAVID STACK, Minneapolis


Solve housing needs to keep outstate growing

Thanks for some great recent articles in your Business section, especially those featuring very good news about business in outstate Minnesota. On Monday, for instance, there was an article about GVL Poly of Litchfield, a small but growing firm using 3-D printing technology purchased from Stratasys of Eden Prairie, another great recent success story for a Minnesota company ("New technology, new sales"). Not long ago, there was a story about rapid expansion by manufacturing firms in Fergus Falls, farther removed from the metro area. It is terrific to learn that outstate firms are helping lead the way in growing the manufacturing sector in Minnesota and the nation. Let's hope this continues and that the problems with lack of housing in these areas can be resolved and that both housing and manufacturing can thrive together to the benefit of all.

RODNEY E. JOHNSON, Minneapolis


Union representation will protect caregivers

I have been working as a personal care attendant (PCA) for my wife, Christine, for about six years. She has multiple sclerosis and needs 24-hour care for her complex medical needs.

Without my involvement, it would be impossible to keep her out of a long-term care facility. We get about 52 hours of skilled nursing assistance per week, and I cover nearly all the remaining hours of the week. PCAs across the state provide excellent care and save taxpayers millions of dollars by keeping people in their homes and out of facilities.

I'd like to thank the legislators who worked to allow us the opportunity to vote on forming a union ("Union presses effort to organize personal care aides," Sept. 21). The Republicans tried to cut our pay two years ago and fought hard to prevent us from having the opportunity to vote on unionization. I would encourage other PCAs to vote in favor of forming a union so that we can protect home care programs in Minnesota.

MARK KIRWIN, Minneapolis


Corporations should step up to save the day

As a frequent visitor to your delightful city full of good restaurants, museums, art galleries and, of course, your beautiful lakes, I find it disheartening to learn of the demise of your once wonderful Minnesota Orchestra. What happened to culture in your city? Why is it that corporations that have unlimited funding for sporting events and stadiums cannot or will not underwrite the symphony?

We had the same situation in San Diego. Our symphony went bankrupt and almost terminated, but the co-founder of Qualcomm, Irwin Jacobs, came to the rescue, and we now have one of the finest symphony orchestras in the country. Shame on your corporations for allowing this to happen.

SHIRLEY COOPER, San Diego, Calif.


In the case of PolyMet, what would Lord do?

More than 30 years ago, the honorable federal Judge Miles Lord stopped Reserve Mining from polluting Lake Superior. Before PolyMet Mining Corp. is given a permit to destroy northeast Minnesota, I would like to see Lord sign off on it. He was the savior of that area.

ALAN STONE, Minnetonka