I am in total agreement with U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer’s proposal that the U.S. lift the trade embargo on Cuba (“Emmer is at odds with party on Cuba,” Jan. 18). I visited Cuba in November on a cultural exchange. We visited the cities of Camaguey, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Havana, riding through the countryside and through many small towns.

We were shocked to see a man walking behind a plow pulled by a yoke of oxen in his field. Nearly all fieldwork is done with horses. Only 30 percent of the people own cars, so much transportation is on bicycles or in horse-drawn wagons, even out on the paved highways. Men cut hay for their livestock in the ditches using machetes. Rice is dried on the edge of the paved highways. There is no fresh milk, only powdered milk, even in the finest hotels. The water is not safe unless boiled, so we were supplied with bottled water for the entire trip.

In every town, there were deteriorated abandoned buildings, and nearly every structure needed repairs or paint. Children attend school in an unfinished cement-block building. The government owns nearly everything and pays such low wages that many people seek work as a tour guide or other work in which they can earn tips. Food is still rationed, and quantities given are small — six eggs per person per month, one tube of toothpaste for a family of five per month, two pounds of beans and very little meat of any kind. Wi-Fi is available only in a few areas scattered across the country.

But the people are warm and welcoming. We were entertained by a ballet company, a city choir, flamenco dancers and a small band playing Cuban traditional music, often in humble studios. The musicians wished that they could order replacement parts for their instruments from the U.S. Others wished they could buy clothing, food items, electronics, automobile parts and many other items from the U.S. that aren’t available to them now. They begged us to ask our representatives to lift the embargo. So that is what I am doing. Good luck to Rep. Emmer.

Kathy Brown Dodds, Lonsdale, Minn.

BICYCLES AND CARS

Sharing the road at city speeds is actually the easier problem

I fully support lower speed limits in inner-city neighborhoods, not just for bicycle safety but also for the safety of children and walkers (“Bicyclists to drivers: Let’s slow down a bit,” Jan. 19). In areas where there is curbside parking, it is harder to see pedestrians at a crosswalk, vehicles entering the street from driveways and, of course, bicycles. We need to drive more slowly so we can react to unexpected entry to the roadway.

We need more cooperation and consistency from bicyclists. They are under the same rule of law as an auto or motorcycle. That means drive on the right, obey stop signs, signal turns, etc. The fact that bicycles don’t follow the rules of the road is actually another big reason for a lower speed limit, but bicycle safety lies mostly in the hands on the handlebars.

With education and cooperation, city streets can be made safe for bicyclists. Highways are another matter entirely. Motorized traffic going 55 or 60 miles per hour and bicycles is a combination for disaster. Drivers are not primarily looking for bicycles. The speed differential leads to unsafe passing and passing too close to a cyclist. The only way for bicycles and motorized vehicles to coexist on highways is with bike lanes. This is easy to understand but difficult (and expensive) to do.

Do we need to allow bicycles on certain highways only during the daylight hours? Only on roads with bike lanes? Only for bicyclists older than 12? Is there a need for a license that certifies that a bicyclist knows the traffic rules and can handle a bicycle safely?

We know we should do something about bicycles on highways but apparently are not willing to take the steps to do what is right and sensible.

Roger Larson, Columbus

 

ROBERT TREUER

There’s a story behind the story of this Holocaust survivor

It was incredibly sad to see the obituary for Robert Treuer (“He was a Holocaust survivor, tree farmer, writer and advocate,” Jan. 19), and not just for his passing, but for the passing of an untold story, too. It was summed up in one innocuous sentence — “they came to the U.S. in 1939, where Treuer practiced his English sitting beside the radio.” That radio was in West Branch, Iowa, at a Quaker boarding school called Scattergood. From 1939 to 1943, a group of Quaker college students with nothing but their idealism and a sense of righteousness brought to Scattergood more than 100 refugees from the Holocaust. It was a “Schindler’s List” of the prairie and, unfortunately, too few people know the story. With his passing there is now one less person to tell it.

Irving Kellman, Plymouth

The writer is assistant director of TRACES, a museum dedicated to telling the untold stories of World War II.

 

‘MAKING A MURDERER’

Commentary should have disclosed an employer interest

While I have not yet viewed “Making a Murderer,” I understand it shines a bright light on our criminal-justice system. In so doing, it calls into question the efficacy and integrity of that system, including law enforcement and prosecutors.

Yet Chris Duffy, the author of a Jan. 18 commentary about the Netflix series (“A riveting yarn, not the whole story”), fails to disclose that his company, Goff Public, is working to promote the reopening of a long-shuttered for-profit prison in western Minnesota. The prison is owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, which has a notorious record of mistreatment, abuse and neglect of people incarcerated in its facilities, including immigrant detainees. Both CCA and Goff Public stand to lose business if our criminal-justice system is reformed and fewer people are incarcerated. For Mr. Duffy, Goff Public and the Star Tribune to fail to disclose this interest is a glaring oversight.

Lars Negstad, Minneapolis

 

CARBON MONOXIDE

Minnesota law should require detectors in recreational spaces

When enjoying the great outdoors in our RVs, boats and fish houses, we seldom think of carbon-monoxide dangers. Another death this ice fishing season on Leech Lake might have been prevented if the fish house had been equipped with a working carbon monoxide detector. And last October, a young girl in a boat cabin on Lake Minnetonka was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and tragically died, underscoring how dangerous this odorless, tasteless, colorless gas can be, even in places that have a feel of the outdoors.

Minnesota is one of 25 states legally requiring carbon monoxide detectors in homes. But, from what legal research I did, not one state requires them in RVs, cabins, boat enclosures, fish houses or similar confined spaces. Minnesota should take the lead and change the law to extend it to RV vehicles and other confined areas in which people may sleep or rest.

Phillip Trobaugh, St. Paul