The face staring at your readers on Page A1 on Saturday should have been doctored up to show the touch of gray and haircut of an imprisoned man approaching middle age. That’s how long it will take for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sentence to be carried out, if it’s carried out at all. Unless he tires of prison life and waives all appeals, he’ll have a generation of housing and meals, courtesy of the American taxpayer. Just as with Timothy McVeigh, Tsarnaev and his lawyers, not the court system, will get to decide the timeline of his fate.

Tom Intihar, Brooklyn Park

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What is the bigger evil — to be young and stupid and indiscriminately commit four homicides, or to be one of 12 who conspire in a rational manner to commit homicide?

Garth Gideon, Clear Lake, Minn.

THE 2015 LEGISLATURE

Assessing Dayton’s firm stance, or obstinance, on early ed

I’m proud of our legislators for passing the education bill even under the threat of a veto. That’s true leadership for the people, by the people. Gov. Mark Dayton is not acting in the best interest of the people of Minnesota. He is doing the bidding of the president of the United States. At the governor’s budget presentation in February, the education commissioner shared that President Obama had recently asked the nation’s governors to pass funding for universal pre-K. The federal government cannot fully fund the program the president is aiming for, so he wants the states to plan ahead and be prepared to fund. I’m saddened that we have a governor who would harm the whole educational system of Minnesota just to please the president.

Cyndi Cunningham, St. Paul

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I admire Dayton’s tenacity regarding pre-K schooling. As a community social worker in Ramsey County, I’ve seen the devastating impact poverty has on families without access to affordable early-childhood education. After many years of providing direct services to families struggling to meet their basic needs, and case-consulting with other social workers throughout the Twin Cities area, it has become painfully obvious to me that unless a single-parent household has access to affordable child care it will become nearly impossible for them to hold down a job and become self-sufficient. The child care assistance program administered by the Department of Human Services has at least a two-year waiting list in several counties, and Head Start is only funded enough to provide early education to a select handful of children living at or below the federal poverty guideline.

Without a trusting, willing and able network of informal child care support, a single-family household is vulnerable to food insecurity, deteriorating health (mental and physical), and homelessness — among other cruel hardships. To be sure, this isn’t just anecdotal. The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers both released thoroughly researched studies indicating that for every dollar invested in early-care programs there’s more than an $8 return to society.

I doubt that our legislators will reach out to their single-parent constituents to get their input, and I don’t know if the Republican-led House will ever be convinced to recognize early-childhood education as a vital investment to our state’s best interests, but I do sincerely appreciate the attention the governor has given toward this issue.

Eric Jayne, Apple Valley

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In the articles about Dayton’s push for universal preschool for 4-year-olds, there has been minimal information on the content of the proposed program. My youngest son is in kindergarten this year, and we happily opted out of last year’s gift from the state — universal, full-day kindergarten. Why? Because we believe that all-day school is not the place for a 5-year-old. There is minimal “play” time in kindergarten today, and a full day is a long time to expect a child of that age to follow directions, sit in a circle, stay in a line and keep his hands to himself. So many children, particularly boys, are not developmentally ready for the sit-still-and-listen atmosphere of public school, and they often struggle unnecessarily in today’s academic-based preschools and kindergartens.

Studies show that traditional, play-based preschool and kindergarten pay off, but the trend seems to be to push academics at younger and younger ages. I recognize that our family is in the minority with my ability to stay home with my children, and that all-day preschool will benefit many families. However, I worry that the governor’s plan would set more children up for failure, as they are pushed into an environment they are not developmentally ready for. Will his preschool plan consist of worksheets on math and reading or more valuable play and social development?

Natalie Goodson, New Hope

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Many preschools in Minnesota are now run by churches that can still talk about God. State-run preschools will be under the same rules as our public schools and therefore will be unable to introduce the 10 commandments but instead will talk about the rules coming from the state. Is the goal better education or to promote socialism as a religion? I have seen no mention of giving any of the money in Dayton’s plan to successful existing programs. I assume that is a tip of the hat to the teachers union for its continued support of the governor and other Democrats.

John Forman, Albert Lea, Minn.

 

GMO FOODS

How can it be ‘irresponsible’ to offer consumers transparency?

Michael Gerson’s May 18 commentary (“GMO bans: trendy — and irresponsible”) lacked reason. First, no one is “banning” the sale or consumption of GMOs. Yes, some businesses are choosing not to buy food made with GMOs, and many consumers want to know if the food they are eating contains GMOs. This is not a ban; it is an effort to provide consumers with knowledge about what they are consuming.

How can Gerson claim that a promise by Whole Foods for “full GMO transparency” is irresponsible? If, as Gerson states, GMOs are safe, why does it hurt for me to know that my food contains GMOs?

Like many GMO supporters, Gerson has jumped to the conclusion that those of us who want to know if we are eating GMOs are scientifically naive and think there is a health risk. But many consumers are not so much concerned with health risks from consuming a GMO as they are worried about supporting a food industry dominated by a few strains of crops and controlled by only a handful of large multinational corporations that make these GMOs. A near-monoculture of specific GMOs endangers farm crops across the country. Diversity in our food supply reduces the chances of a pathogen wiping out a whole crop across the country.

In the minds of many consumers, the GMO industry is not suitably regulated. Uncontrolled and presumably unintentional spread of certain gene modifications into neighboring croplands as well as seed stores is well-documented. There have been recent cases of GMOs spreading far outside control plots during research studies, and cases of farmers being sued when patented gene modifications have been found in their seed stocks. We do not know the full impact of these GMO plantings on our food supply or in our larger environment. Consumers should have the right to know what they are buying so they can make informed decisions about how to use their economic influence.

No one is stopping GMO supporters from making their case for the advantages of GMOs. Meanwhile, they should not be able to deny us our rights to know what is in the foods we eat and the products we buy.

Cheryl Quinn, Minneapolis