The events in Ferguson, Mo., demonstrate once again the strange phenomenon that seems to permeate our social conscience: We seem to care about the lives of innocent people only when their deaths come at the hands of some group that we don't like. This phenomenon was apparent in the coverage of the deaths of Palestinian civilians caught in the middle of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which merited 24-hour-a-day coverage, demonstrations and protests, while the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in other countries in the Middle East received little or no attention. Similarly, the tragic killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson is given wall-to-wall media coverage, demonstrations and protests and a presidential news conference, while the killings of dozens of inner-city kids last weekend in Chicago, Detroit, L.A. and Philadelphia goes unnoticed.

Ronald Haskvitz, St Louis Park

Griping citizens are forgetting the dangers

After reading Ross Douthat's commentary "When the police dress for war" (Aug. 19), I'm thinking he has very little firsthand experience with enforcing the law. I'm thinking that he might completely reconsider his final comment — "time to take their toys away" — if he were sent to a "drug house" on a no-knock warrant, pushed to the front of the line of cops and told to "go in there with your six-shooter and take those drugs and weapons away from those hooligans." One or two entries like that, and I believe we would find old Ross standing in front of the line at the "SWAT store" buying the latest, greatest offerings that would put him on par with what the criminals are toting.

Richard Greelis, Bloomington

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Every cop who stops a car knows things can go from routine to life-or-death without warning. This is true night or day, even with Volvos driven by middle-aged white men like the author of the Aug. 17 Short Takes ("Questioning authority: Trooper wanted to be in control"). If the writer chooses to drive with illegally tinted windows, then it is he, not the law officer, who is being rude and disrespectful.

By the way, the weather was bright and sunny when the officer from West St. Paul was recently murdered. I'm sure you get the picture.

Dennis H. Roberts, Maplewood

Low-flying helicopters unnerving to civilians

I was one of the civilians frightened by the unannounced military exercises in downtown Minneapolis on Monday night ("Helicopters buzz Twin Cities in security exercise," Aug. 19). Not only did I not know what was going on, but I was unable to access the Internet on my cellphone — was it blocked by a security override? I am particularly upset that one of helicopters (flying in quickly and at very low altitude over the Mississippi River and Hennepin Avenue) chose to come to a halt directly over me and my group of friends, tilting at an angle that gave its several occupants clear view of us (and us of them). Without knowing the context of what was going on — were they terrorists? — I did not know if they were going to shoot at us, and I moved between parked cars to take cover.

I sure don't appreciate military exercises that interface directly with civilians, and I'm not sure what these operations stand to gain from doing so. Conceptual training exercises should not justify threatening the public. What is the integrity of a "protective force" that acts in such unseemly ways?

Nina Ebbighausen, Minneapolis

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I live in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, and I am concerned about the helicopter maneuvers but am really not even sure who to contact about it, although I have written to my St. Paul council member and to Mayor Chris Coleman.

Are we seriously going to allow this type of "training" to go on in our neighborhoods? I would like to believe we don't live in a police state, but the recent activities have made me wonder. What's next?

Cindy Syme, St. Paul

Who will speak for the behaving students?

Under the bold headline "More K-4 kids kicked out" (Aug. 17), we heard several voices speaking on behalf of the disruptive students, in general laying blame on the school system for suspending more minority children than white children. Absent in the article was any analysis of the purported misbehavior. We were left to wonder: Did the misbehavior really occur, and what was its exact nature?

To paraphrase the article, the superintendent of the Minneapolis public schools has a new strategic plan to even out suspension rates. I'd like to hear more details about that plan, since it seems based on race or ethnicity alone, and implies that administrators will be disregarding the nature and seriousness of the behavior in order to "even things out."

I hear no mention of providing a quality learning environment, where teachers can teach and interested students can learn. Who speaks for these students? Instead of punishing the disruptive students, we will punish the behaving students by subjecting them to this disruptive behavior, robbing them of their right to a quality education.

I would not want to be a teacher or a student in Minneapolis with that kind of wrongheaded thinking at the top.

John Murphy, Maple Grove

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I found it interesting that the Star Tribune would print a front-page story about a coalition planning to develop common practices and protocols to boost third-grade reading proficiency and college-readiness in Minnesota schools ("Coalition crystalizes education goals," Aug. 19). The coalition is made up of the same failed leaders and policymakers of the past. Meanwhile, on the editorial page, the newspaper printed a cartoon mocking parents who prepare their children for success.

James M. Becker, Lakeville

Any recruiting efforts must come early, often

With regard to the Minneapolis police force and the struggle to hire a more diverse group of people ("Mpls. cops fall short on diversity," Aug. 19), it would appear the desired minority segments are not applying to be in law enforcement. Perhaps during a career day at a heavily diverse school, law enforcement personnel could connect with children who have an interest. Could a program within the department be set up to then follow those minority children through their school years, pointing out the course they need to follow in order to achieve a career in law enforcement? Perhaps having a mentor in law enforcement might encourage a child to choose this career path. Having a cool friend on the police force might be all it takes for a child to develop interest.

Teresa Maki, Minnetonka