An unintended consequence of the pandemic appears to be the revealing of the “dark underbelly” of our corporate farming system. I refer to “Shift in egg demand shuts down a farm” (Business, April 22).
The unfortunate farmer mentioned in the article has a “contract” to raise and care for 61,000 egg-producing chickens. Due to decreased demand, the entire flock of 61,000 chickens was euthanized all at one time. Why couldn’t some of those chickens be given away to people that are experiencing food insecurity? The farmer is left with nothing, and since he is not an employee but rather only has a “contract,” he is eligible for nothing from his “employer” and that is exactly what he got. What a dehumanizing portrait this story paints of the large-scale food chain we have come to accept in our never-ending quest for cheap nutrition.
The next section of the story continues on down the supply chain, to the facility in Big Lake where all those eggs were previously processed for institutional use. The entire workforce of 300 people was laid off. The factory is owned by Cargill, one of the biggest food companies in the world. It doesn’t answer to stockholders because it’s privately owned. Cargill has tried hard to promote a reputation of philanthropy and concern for the environment, but maybe keeping employees on the payroll for a few months instead of putting them on the public dole would also be a noble effort. Again, a very telling portrait of a corporation that has tried so hard to make itself look like it cares about people.
Catherine Fuller, Minneapolis
DECISIONS AMID DISEASE
Then, like now, intertwined events. Now, also: competing interests.
We learned a lesson of the 1918 flu pandemic at an early age (“Let us learn from those who died in 1918,” Opinion Exchange, April 22) as related by our mother who was 9 at that time. In horse and buggy, she and an aunt fled from their Kettle River home as fire raged from Moose Lake to Duluth in October of that year. More than 350 people perished. However, this environmental disaster also led to the death of many who survived the fire.
With soldiers returning home from the Great War bringing the disease with them, the flu virus spread throughout the area where survivors of the fire had crowded into the few remaining buildings, unable to heed the advice given by officials to remain apart. Many died in those buildings, including my mother’s mother and uncle.
Today we have these deadly three intertwined types of events again plaguing us — climate change, bringing fires and floods; armed conflicts, and pandemics. Comprehensive solutions are needed, as each affects the others.
Kathleen Laurila, Crystal, and Anita Kovic, Lakeville
• • •
Watching, reading and listening to stories about the demonstrations to “#OpenMN,” I just assumed that this is the second side of the story about our current situation. The first side is the need to stay at home and open businesses based on a plan that keeps our many front-line “angels” safe and prevents overloading our health care services. The second, but no less critical, side is the need to get people back to work so they can afford rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, child care and other essentials of life.
Then I saw an “open up the state” clip on television (it wasn’t local) that included a brief comment from a person participating in the demonstration. This person said that the businesses should be opened because “we want to buy what we want to buy and go get our hair cut.” This was my awakening to there being a third side to this story — self-interest.
Rebecca Fuller, Woodbury
PRESIDENTS AND THE PRESS
Of classified information, espionage and Julian Assange
William Beyer (“Obama’s war on media was more harmful,” counterpoint, April 22) criticizes the Obama administration for prosecuting “10 government employees and contractors for disclosing classified information to the press.” Part of his argument is that the Espionage Act should not be used to prosecute U.S. citizens because it was “enacted during World War I to protect the country against spies for foreign governments.”
Elsewhere in the article, he talks about the “odious and patently unconstitutional use of the Espionage Act to suppress free speech … .”
Stealing classified information from the government and making it public is espionage, not “leaking.” It is completely appropriate and not at all unconstitutional to prosecute people who do such activities. The issue is not free speech, it is the protection of government secrets.
Beyer says that the U.S. government has harassed Julian Assange. It appears that he regards Assange as a “leaker” or “whistleblower” who is merely exercising his right to free speech. Assange is accused of helping Chelsea Manning steal classified information, then publishing that information. Helping someone to steal classified information is espionage, not free speech.
James Brandt, New Brighton
• • •
Though their articles were positioned as point and counterpoint, both John Rash (“A pointed report on Trump and the media,” April 18) and Beyer actually wrote strong complementary defenses of the First Amendment. And that’s a good thing, because the prognosis is not looking rosy, is it?
Our bellwether is the imperiled Julian Assange, founding publisher of WikiLeaks. Assange has been the target of a ferocious smear campaign over the past decade, such that arguing in his defense nowadays can feel like talking with 12-year-olds about Slenderman.
The Assange smears are rooted in the Swedish sex-crime allegations of August 2010. However, the investigation was upended last September by Nils Melzer (U.N. special rapporteur on torture) in a 19-page report (bit.ly/2NXUAEN).
Melzer revealed that the Swedish government shopped prosecutors, manipulated evidence, disregarded exculpatory evidence and refused to guarantee non-rendition. Bureaucratic procrastination was pervasive throughout, amid interference from British and U.S. security services. Sweden closed its Assange investigation shortly after Melzer’s authoritative report was published.
Whatever your imagined complaint against Assange (careless redaction, Russian agent, blood on his hands, not a journalist), please be skeptical of tainted information and dig deeper. It’s time to let the sunshine in — the reason, after all, that the First comes First.
Drew Hamre, Golden Valley
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