The Jan. 25 article about this year’s interior design trends (“Should they stay or should they go”) suggested that natural materials like coral will be popular. I would like to point out that coral is highly endangered for a number of reasons. Climate change is the worst culprit. Harvesting is next. I sort of equate it to killing elephants for their ivory. And if we indiscriminately harvest coral, which is a very fragile and slow-growing organism, we disturb a marine habitat for dozens of marine creatures, including another endangered one — the beautiful sea turtle.

I hope this letter inspires designers to take coral off their lists of decorative items. More information is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at

Randa Downs, Minneapolis


First failures, then funding cuts? Why?

Children dying while child protection watches, child protection funding slashed — the reports are staggering. In a rugged-individualist, gun-toting, keep-government-out-of-my-life, overworked-and-underpaid, stressed-out society, how do we stop the abuse of children? It turns out there are several effective strategies to prevent abuse and to help those at risk. We just need to decide as a society that we value all our children enough to fund and grow these efforts. Several community child-serving agencies stand ready to make it happen.

Barb Klatt, St. Paul

• • •

As the recent commentary by Sue Abderholden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted (Short Takes, Jan. 29), our state has an incredible unmet need for mental health services. One of the best places to start working at this urgent issue is early in life. A 2010 survey of community child care providers showed that their top training need and interest was around mental health and healthy social-emotional development of young children. The Legislature should invest in partnerships that bring together community child care providers and mental health experts. Fraser, one of the state’s largest children’s mental health agencies (and where I am a policy analyst), has collaborated with schools, child care centers and Head Start programs for more than 10 years to provide this type of consultation to preschool classrooms. The results have been fantastic: Fewer children are expelled from preschool because their behaviors are in control; parents are taught strategies for nurturing their child’s social-emotional growth, and teachers are given more tools to support all of the learners in their classroom.

Lucas Kunach, Minneapolis



Have courage. Speak up. Take action.

In a recent Star Tribune story, a University of St. Thomas professor said “the biggest help to Catholic schools would be for the priest sexual abuse problem to be solved as soon as possible” (“Bankruptcy case brings financial fears for Catholic schools,” Jan. 26).

With all due respect, Twin Cities Catholics need not be passive. They can help “solve” the ongoing clergy sex abuse and coverup crisis. The steps are simple but require courage.

Tell law enforcement everything you know or suspect about possible abuse (no matter how vague your information or how long ago). Ask every adult you know: “Did a priest, nun or seminarian ever hurt you?” (If they say yes, beg them to call the police.) Learn who many Twin Cities pedophile priests are by checking out Donate to organizations that fight — not conceal — child sex crimes. Join groups that are trying to make the church hierarchy more open and responsive. Prod prosecutors to more aggressively pursue those who protect predators and endanger kids. Urge lawmakers to reform archaic statutes that enable complicit church supervisors to get off scot-free.

Parishioners often feel powerless. But in fact, they have many opportunities to make the church, and our society, safer. They need not sit back and hope that someone else will fix this crisis.

David Clohessy, St. Louis, Mo.

The writer is director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.



Nation, state are on the wrong side of the cycle

Reading President Obama’s national proposals for the remainder of his term, along with Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent pronouncements, I am reminded that historical context matters. In 1887, a University of Edinburgh history professor noted the following about the fall of the Athenian Republic 2,000 years earlier: From bondage to spiritual faith; from faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage. Without abrupt change in thinking, our direction is predictable.

Jim Buck, Independence



Right and left unite against Trans-Pacific

Trade deals may have been about trade in the past, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a different animal entirely. The reason Tea Partiers and progressives have united against the TPP is because it ensures that democracy won’t interfere with corporate profits.

Under the deal, a corporation can sue a nation for passing a law that interferes with its profits and be compensated for forfeited profits by the nation’s taxpayers.

Fracking bans, living wages, food safety protections and more will be under threat if the Obama administration moves forward with this deal.

If the TPP is a good deal for Americans, why is its text classified on national security grounds, an unprecedented move that shields its provisions from public scrutiny?

The far right distrusts government. The far left distrusts corporate power. We should all be thankful that this new alliance has insisted on full disclosure of the TPP’s text and a full and robust congressional debate.

Nancy Brown, Minneapolis



Make it potent. Just add an article.

It seems we Minnesotans continue to operate in an unobtrusive manner as we search to update our state’s image as “north.”

Why not be bold and brazen like Ohio State University and pre-emptively put the word “The” in our label, so we can stake claim to the term “The North” for our great state? This would be an unconventional Minnesota action to change our national image and dissociate ourselves from the blah label Midwest/Upper Midwest.

John Sweeney, Plymouth