If it stops terror plots, where's the evidence?

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, claims that surveillance of e-mail messages has prevented more than 50 terrorist plots. If this is true, there must be dozens of criminals and terrorists who have been arrested and charged with crimes. Who are they, and where are they imprisoned? What is the status of their criminal trials?

I understand that the NSA plans to present "classified evidence" to Congress. Why classified? If the terrorist attacks were prevented, isn't the specific threat ended?

I am not opposed to the NSA surveillance tactics, since I do not understand what "freedoms" are being compromised. But I am opposed to a government agency that embarks on such an expansion of powers without being able to establish that the effort is justified. I also wonder: Why is the press not asking these questions?


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People must be terribly naive to believe that their government, or any other, doesn't spy on them. For decades after my parents escaped from communist Eastern Europe, and even after they became U.S. citizens, all their personal mail to and from the old country arrived with ripped envelopes that had been roughly taped shut. My father queried both the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI. They blamed the evil Red Empire. Relatives in Europe were told that it was all the fault of the corrupt and decadent West. All we knew is that we never had this problem when we lived in Canada.

My father wasn't bothered that some low-level surveillance jockey was reading about Grandma's arthritis and cousin Laszlo's new job. What annoyed him was the huge waste of tax dollars used to dig for nonexistent secrets in our family trivia.

INGRID TRAUSCH, New Prague, Minn.
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The Mars-Venus trope perpetuates disparity

In Harvey Mackay's June 17 column, a quote from the book "Work With Me," by Barbara Annis and John Gray, got us seeing red. But then, we're women. Probably wouldn't upset men, so Annis and Gray say.

The quote is, "[F]or many women, a collaborative work environment, peer and supervisory support, and building sharing and reciprocal relationships are as important as money, status and power." This implies that it's OK if women are underpaid, because what they really care about are touchy-feely things.

Whoa! Women have bills to pay, mouths to feed. Just like men. Women care very much about how much they are paid. And who of either gender wants to work in an atmosphere of noncooperation?

Mackay's column reinforces the popular notion that "men are from Mars and women from Venus" — a notion that helps excuse the status quo and perpetuate the earnings gap. It's too bad he didn't reference the scientific research on gender. Reviewing that research in the New York Times, Bobbi Carothers and Harry Reis concluded, "The Mars/Venus view describes a world that does not exist, at least here on earth. Our work shows that sex does not define qualitatively distinct categories of psychological characteristics. We need to look at individuals as individuals."


The writers, respectively, represent Gender Justice and the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota.

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The latest news is not so helpful

The American Medical Association, intent on boosting the "business of medicine," has declared obesity a disease. The definitions used for obesity have no scientific foundation; the data quoted on relationship to disease is based on flawed studies. The largest meta-analysis, covering 65,000 people and published in the Lancet last year, showed that overweight and moderately obese people live longer and are healthier than so-called ­normal-weight and underweight people.

Clearly, the AMA is most interested in insurance reimbursement for bariatric surgery, while Big Pharma is looking for reimbursement for weight-loss drugs. Anyone remember how well that worked with Phen-fen? We need to be promoting healthy eating and exercise, but we do not need to stigmatize millions of Americans with the "disease" label.

ROBERT VEITCH, Minneapolis

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Should adults eat breakfast every day? A June 18 article said we should, based on a University of Minnesota study that linked the skipping of breakfast to diabetes. But linking is not causation, and whether adults should eat breakfast every day is contentious. According to Guyton's Textbook of Medical Physiology, there is no physiologic reason to eat a morning meal. That more than 25 percent of adults skip breakfast every day as it is would suggest that it is not a crucial ritual to observe.

In epidemiologic studies like this one, uncontrolled variables are important to consider. People who are fastidious (read: compulsive) about eating breakfast — especially a cereal-based one — are likely to be equally fastidious about getting the proper exercise, eating the right foods or seeing a doctor regularly. It is probably out of these unexplored factors that the "link" with a lower incidence of diabetes arises.

In 2003, a study analyzing data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was published. With 16,000 participants, breakfast was looked at carefully. The study authors found that people who skipped breakfast consumed on average 10 percent fewere calories per day than their breakfast-eating counterparts. Also, people who consumed a noncereal breakfast had a higher body mass index than did those who skipped breakfast.