Winona LaDuke argues in her Oct. 10 commentary that despite the defeat suffered by opponents of the recent completion of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement pipeline, their strategies have been affirmed and the defeat offset by other victories ("Line 3 opponents can savor this defeat," Opinion Exchange).

She claims that "no one wants to finance more tar sands" because of low oil prices and the four-year delay in opening the pipeline. But what was $50-a-barrel oil then is over $80 a barrel now and rising daily, and the pipeline is now up and running at twice the capacity of the old one.

She's also pleased that Harvard University has begun divesting itself of fossil fuel holdings. But wouldn't it be better for concerned investors to hold onto their investments and use that leverage to lobby for positive change, which has shown some recent success? If Harvard's holdings are instead held by private equity firms, will they push as hard to phase out fossil fuels?

I've always wondered if the pipeline's opponents ever considered negotiating a replacement that ran along the old route but would have kept the flow at the half-capacity required by the aging original line. By holding out for total victory, they've ended up with a pipeline that has to follow a much longer route and will be pumping at twice the capacity for years to come.

Sometimes, moral victories might not be as valuable as they seem.

Bruce Williams, New Brighton


Poor Big Pharma, just scraping by with zillions to spare

Annette Thompson Meeks, in her commentary "Side effects of voiding drug patents would be severe" (Opinion Exchange, Oct. 19), claims that the loss of patents on vaccines would result in the pharmaceutical industry and investors foregoing billions of dollars of research and development aimed at new and better medicines. Meeks neglects to mention that companies such as UnitedHealth Group have made high profits in the past year, and handed a $42 million package to its outgoing CEO.

Meeks repeats the usual claim that the industry spends an enormous amount of money in research and development but that it accepts this cost due to the generous patent protections on new medications, including vaccines. Well, yes, but she also neglects a study by the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy showing that of the top 100 drug companies by sales, 64 spent twice as much on marketing and sales as they did on research and development. Indeed, 58 spent three times as much, 43 spent five times as much, and 27 spent 10 times as much!

Of course this indicates that despite the risks of new drug development, the industry has plenty of money to spend on direct-to-consumer advertising and nonresearch payments to physicians, journal editors and medical organizations.

Charles E. Dean, Apple Valley

The writer is a physician.


A headline in the Oct. 15 Star Tribune reads, "UnitedHealth's profit soars past $4B." That's a quarterly profit. While performance like this may cheer investors and executives, it begs the question of how the insertion of insurance companies between patient and doctor serves the public interest. In the insurance world, every payment to a policyholder is classified as a loss. We know that the U.S. spends nearly twice as much as the average OECD country on health care, while having a comparably low life expectancy and high suicide rate. We have the highest chronic disease rate, the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths among peer nations, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

Clearly, there are two sides to this performance coin. Public health, the flip side of profit-driven health care, deserves equal attention. The surging profits at UnitedHealth may be making the most compelling case for Medicare for all.

Larry Risser, Minneapolis


Self-defense use is actually prolific

I advise the letter writers demanding gun control and pooh-poohing defensive gun use to access the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to note that the number of defensive gun uses each year are between 60,000 and 2.5 million ("Where are cases of self-defense?" Readers Write, Oct. 19). It is unfortunate that some die because of gun violence and could have been saved with draconian gun laws, but many thousands more would be lost without Second Amendment protections.

Donald M. Pitsch, Eden Prairie


There was some flawed logic and purposeful mischaracterization of facts on display for two Oct. 19 letter writers over the gun/crime issue.

First, the writer wondering where the stories are that show firearms protect innocent people — I can assure you they have been documented. Research groups and authors document these cases nationwide. The "deadly plague" of self-defense with firearm ownership has kept hundreds of people from harm annually. This data is also available from the National Rifle Association and FBI. However, these events are rarely chronicled by major media outlets as they do not want to show anything positive about gun ownership. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

The second writer evidently does not approve of state Sen. Warren Limmer ("We need common-sense control — of criminals," Opinion Exchange, Oct. 15). The author purposely obfuscates the fact that anti-gun groups are not about limiting gun ownership. It is a clever attempt to recharacterize the virtue of their agenda. The writer also extolled the virtues of red-flag laws, which I support as a retired deputy sheriff. However they must be constructed in a constitutionally correct manner. Further, the existence of the law does not ensure it will prevent violence unless someone initiates the process to begin. Therein lies its limitations. Sen. Limmer's statement that "laws do not stop criminals" is correct. However, they do stop 99% of the public. That is why we have police officers, prosecuting attorneys and judges. But apparently that connection cannot be made by the writer.

Printing letters like these is a valuable service because it shows how people deny or twist reality to fit their own political agenda.

Joe Polunc, Waconia


He sowed the seeds of distrust

Colin Powell certainly deserves the recognition he has received since his passing ("A trailblazer, trusted adviser," front page, and "Colin Powell's extraordinary life," editorial, Oct. 19). His accomplishments as a military leader and secretary of state speak for themselves. All the romantic rhetoric about the "promise of America" aside, Powell is the enabler who promoted the lie about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction as justification for the disastrous Iraq invasion. The subsequent carnage perpetrated by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Powell's cohorts did nothing but waste money and lives in the service of a flawed ideology of which Gen. Powell was an enthusiastic proponent.

Of greater consequence is the loss of trust in American leadership. The lies and deception that have destroyed the credibility of our democratic institutions are a direct and proximate cause of our current political paralysis where individuals egged on by a former president stormed the U.S. Capitol. We can praise Powell's personal integrity and fortitude while, at the same time, maintaining a clear view of his tragic flaws. If democracy can survive in the desert of distrust Powell helped create, we may yet see the promise of America fulfilled.

George Hutchinson, Minneapolis

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