“Life Time Fitness tunes out news channels …”? (Jan. 5.) SIGN ME UP! Each morning I read the paper to digest that which a citizen needs to know, then I try to clear my head and get on with my day. But I’m surrounded at work, at home and in public by people tuned into “news” on devices. I can’t pump gas, visit my bank, eat out, wait for an airplane or basically go anywhere without being assaulted by “news.” I went to a secluded vacation spot, and the pool area was polluted by a large outdoor screen blaring “news.” I’ve deactivated all feeds and notifications on my devices, closed down all of my social-media accounts and I still can’t escape “news.” I don’t care which way the “news” leans — there’s just too much of it, it’s mostly speculative, and ALL OF IT increases anxiety and deepens our national us vs. them divide. Kudos to Life Time Fitness for recognizing the damaging, addictive, cultish effect that omnipresent 24-hour “news” has on humanity. To me, that’s news worth sharing.

Lily Coyle, Bloomington

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A Jan. 6 letter complained that Life Time should do a member survey to ask what members want. I wanted to let the letter writer know that Life Time did send out a survey. I got one, and it asked in great detail, ad nauseam, about the workout experience at the clubs, including personal trainers and classes at the gym. Unfortunately, I was one of the people who took the time to respond, because I wanted to let Life Time know that exercise, not the televisions, is a priority for me. It is unfortunate that the letter writer may have missed the survey, but that is not the fault of Life Time. I laughed at the survey questions until I realized that Life Time actually used the suggestions straight out of that survey.

Carla McClellan, Minneapolis

HEALTH CARE COSTS

For transparency and savings, consider independent providers

As a clinic administrator, I was drawn to John Folsom’s Jan. 4 commentary “Lifting the veil on all-too-hidden medical fees.”

While I don’t disagree that consumers often find it challenging to determine the cost of an exam or a procedure, I’d like to point out that the article referenced only large health care systems.

The patient in question may have had a different experience had they contacted an independent health care provider. There are many independent practices throughout the Twin Cities providing primary care and specialty health care services ranging from audiology to urology (see midwestipa.org).

Independent health care providers can more easily respond to a patient’s inquiry about cost. What’s more, the cost may be up to 40 percent less than the fees charged by a large system. Unlike retail, in health care, bigger is not cheaper. Health care systems use their size and breadth to negotiate higher payment rates from insurers. Smaller, independent organizations lack the leverage to negotiate similar rates; thus, reimbursements are lower and the cost to the consumer is lower. As the article states, “the consumer will soon be a major source of funding” (for health care costs) — indeed, for many people, this is already true.

Despite the lower cost of care provided by independent physicians, the quality of care is often first-rate. Independent providers have more autonomy with their schedules and can spend more time with patients.

If the ultimate objective is health care cost transparency, don’t overlook the independent providers. They deliver on value and quality.

Melanie Rupprecht, Edina

WATER QUALITY

On nitrates, mining, who gets the power? Not the public.

I read with interest the Jan. 9 editorial regarding Brown County and the County Board’s refusal to allow water testing (“Brown Co. leaders failed on well testing”). Across rural Minnesota, local planning commissions and county boards have promoted large corporate interests and permitted large factory farms. Now that the environment is polluted with high nitrates, phosphorus, antibiotics and other contaminants, local governing bodies are running from the problems they created.

Our family farm is located in Dodge County in southern Minnesota. Although the neighborhood vigorously protested the permitting of a large swine factory farm situated on karst topography near our farm several years ago, Dodge County approved the factory farm anyway. Afterward, there were increasing levels of nitrates in our well testing. We have avoided drinking water from our farm well for years due to high nitrates. This fall, the water test revealed a nitrate level of 16 milligrams per liter, far in excess of the state maximum of 10 mg/L.

Our grass-roots organization, Dodge County Concerned Citizens, has been working hard to raise awareness regarding the public health and environmental concerns relating to factory farms. We recently objected to proposed changes to the local ordinance that would have allowed Planning Commission members to serve essentially life terms through reappointment. We urged Dodge County to turn over these positions to new members. For years, the County Board, which appoints Planning Commission members, has populated and repopulated our Planning Commission with feedlot operators and their friends. The county largely ignored our recent request and reappointed two members to another term! I suspect that control of these local boards by feedlot operators occurs in many other rural Minnesota counties, too.

These local governing boards put large corporate interests above the public health of their own local citizens — the same folks they were elected to represent. It’s time to change the leadership across rural Minnesota at the township and county levels and put the citizens first.

Douglas Eayrs, West Concord, Minn.

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Last summer, I visited my friend in Utah. I asked her to take me swimming. She said, “You can’t swim in Utah lakes. They have been copper-mined.” My heart sank, fearing my beloved state of Minnesota might end in the same fate. Our lakes, rivers and streams make us who we are. How do we explain to our children and our grandchildren that we sold our mineral rights to a foreign company, knowing one single mine in a watershed will continuously pollute our waters for 500 years? What will we say when our children ask us how we could sell our pristine water so a CEO in Chile could make billions of dollars? Where will we hide our guilt when our children learn they can no longer drink our contaminated water? What do you suggest we tell our children when they ask to swim, fish or kayak in our lakes teeming with sulfuric acid, heavy metals and sulfates? It takes courage and wisdom to make decisions that support future generations. The soul of Minnesota is priceless, and it is not for sale.

Tracy Uttley, Mahtomedi

FOOD PRODUCTION

Full organics practices meet the reality of the market

The key sentence in the Jan. 4 counterpoint “Yes, organic farms can feed the world” is: “Yes, I do lack the empirical data to support my claim.” That says it all. The writer’s hunches, opinions and biases mean nothing without hard data to support his claim. In this case, his perception is not reality.

I’m a 50-year farmer, and I know that an extended rotation of field crops that includes alfalfa, oats, wheat, cover crops and others would give us fewer disease problems and maybe higher yields for corn and soybeans. The problem is: Where is the market for these other crops? They barely make money at their present acreage level. And present demand would not be filled for corn and soybeans.

Until demand changes, we produce what the market dictates, not what would be ideal for mature organics.

Dean Schutte, Kenyon, Minn