Thank you to the Star Tribune for shining a spotlight on adoption in a June 24 front-page article. We are grateful to the two families who shared their adoption experience. While the story provided a comprehensive overview on adoption and recent trends, the headline — “Adoption turns into rare choice” — might have left readers thinking that adoption is uncommon or no longer a viable option, which is not the case.

While international adoption numbers are down, in Minnesota there are 766 kids in foster care waiting for an adoptive home, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This number has doubled in the last eight years. Older children and sibling groups in other countries are also waiting for a loving, adoptive family.

We still need adoptive families! If you are willing to open your home and your heart to foster care or adoption, please check out Children’s Home and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota at

Alexis Oberdorfer, St. Paul

The writer is senior director of adoption services for Children’s Home and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.


All Americans should read U.N. rapporteur’s diagnosis

Thank you to the Star Tribune for covering the excellent report on poverty in the U.S. by Philip Alston (“Haley slams U.N. poverty report,” June 23). Alston, an Australian and a professor at the New York University School of Law, was reporting to the United Nations on how extreme poverty affects human rights in the U.S. He described “a dramatic change of direction in U.S. policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty.” That is incorrect. President Donald Trump’s speech and actions may be coarser than his predecessors, but we have been heading down the inequality path for decades. Trump’s tax changes may accelerate our inequality and may increase extreme poverty, but they are not a change in direction.

Beyond that, Alston’s report is detailed and highly readable, and it contains both diagnoses of our issues and prescriptions for dealing with them, if we have the will. This report should be read by all Americans who are interested in the future of our democracy. Is it acceptable to you that we, as reported in Star Tribune, “have the highest rates of youth poverty, infant mortality, incarceration, income inequality and obesity among all the countries of the developed world”? If this seems wrong to you, read Alston’s report, cover to cover.

Jim Hove, Isanti, Minn.


Can’t build without subsidies? True now, but change is coming.

In the debate over housing, there is one piece of information that is continually brought up as fact — one that former Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa McDonald recently put succinctly in this paper: “Construction costs are too high for affordable housing to be built without government intervention.” (“The real question isn’t whether Minneapolis will grow, but how,” June 27.)

I can see where this belief comes from, and as it stands today, it is a true statement; however, it overlooks critical innovations in the home construction industry. Innovations such as modular homes, off-site construction, artificial intelligence and new, cheaper materials promise to deliver higher-quality homes at a far lower cost.

These breakthroughs are more than just a fantasy in the distance. A few specific, recent examples include a Swiss research team that created a series of robots that can assemble an entire house from plans; a house designed by Auburn University’s Rural Studio that costs $20,000; and 3D-printed homes being made by numerous startups across the world that could be built for as little as $4,000. These are just some of the exciting ways that technology could allow more and more people to buy homes for less. Relegating home construction costs to a set figure is something that society cannot afford to do. We need to focus on the future of housing, not just the now.

Erik Michaelson, Edina


Enjoy wild foods, but be careful

As the June 16 article “Your weeds are their salad” said, many wild plants are tasty and nutritious. But it is essential to know what you are doing. Some plants, such as “fool’s parsley” and “angel’s trumpet,” can easily kill you. Children have died just from sucking the nectar from angel’s trumpet flowers. So can foxglove, wolfsbane and bloodflower, all of which are raised as flowers.

Some plants are edible when ripe but toxic when not completely ripe. Some plants are edible when properly cooked, but otherwise toxic. The common milkweed is one such. If the shoots, flower buds or pods are picked very small and boiled in three changes of salted water, they are said to be edible. But the raw plant is somewhat toxic. Some other species of milkweed are much more toxic than the common weed. I do not know if cooking makes them edible. Likewise, dogbane is toxic, and it could be mistaken for milkweed when it is small.

Everyone knows that the wrong mushroom can kill you or make you very sick. But the wrong greens can sicken or kill you, too. So make sure you know what you are doing before you eat new plants!

By the way, some lily species are highly toxic to cats, although not toxic to humans. Possibly all lilies and even some related plants, such as daylilies. They cause fatal kidney failure. Very little plant material is required for poisoning.

Joe Smith, Minneapolis


Illumination: An imperative

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light,” stated Plato 2,400 years ago. President Donald Trump declared the press as enemy of the people and purveyor of fake news. Why? In a democracy, the light informs the public for policymaking; without it, the people are left in the dark.

Ancient Roman plebeians chose a tribune, champion of the people, to protect their interests against patricians. Interests include a public right to know what government officials are doing. Despots and tyrants silence the press to keep their subjects in the dark. In a democracy, investigative journalists must be “tribunes” who keep the “lights on” for the people.

History makes clear that current migration issues are rooted in American foreign policy going back more than 100 years of meddling in Central America by favoring brutal dictatorships while resistance movements were suppressed. Trump’s scurrilous racism to lock up frightened children separated from asylum-seeking parents opened doors to internment and authoritarianism.

Yellow journalism does Trump’s tweet analysis, but avoids the hard truths of his current “gaslighting” (creating chaos, contradiction and confusion so that others doubt their grip on reality). Government without newspapers or newspapers without government? President Thomas Jefferson chose the latter. A preferred choice is a democratic government, and, for all its faults, a free press must endure. A free, independent press speaking (writing) truth to power cannot afford to be afraid of the light!

Harold Honkola, Tower, Minn.

Editor’s note: The provenance of the quote attributed to Plato is disputed. The sentiment should not be.