A recent report by the New York Times stated that the U.S. intelligence community concluded months ago, if not earlier, that a Russian intelligence unit secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for successful attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan ("Sources: Trump told of bounties in '19," June 30). The report indicated President Donald Trump had been briefed on the intelligence in late March — and more reporting indicates it may have been in 2019 — but he has not authorized any response measures. The president asserts that he's never been briefed because it had not been deemed verifiable and credible. "Intelligence ... is vetted for its veracity, and it only goes to the president and the high-level officials when it is deemed as verifiable and credible," the president's press secretary has stated.

This would indicate that earlier reports about many things — such as Russian intelligence interference in U.S. elections, which was acknowledged as received by the current administration — were vetted in terms of veracity and credibility.

The fact that the president has cast doubt on those reports, stating in at least one instance that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin instead, is truly alarming. Our president finds it acceptable to disbelieve information generated and shared with him by the best sources of national intelligence that supersedes thresholds of veracity, credibility and truth.

Jim Ryan, Golden Valley

Rule by unanimity harms, too

"Set aside partisan bickering, please" (June 30) is a thoughtful, reasoned letter to the editor, pleading their "advice to legislators: Put party loyalty aside and do the right thing. Now."

That may work at the state and national levels, but when the Minneapolis City Council votes 13-0 on an important issue, perhaps they may also consider another quote from that letter, about "rigid party-line voting that yields nothing." Be careful what you wish for.

Gary Nash, Chanhassen

For a historical argument, use facts

Fifth Congressional District challenger Les Lester's Star Tribune commentary, "We need a fresh voice with an eye on history" (Opinion Exchange, June 29), is the most ridiculous bit of ideological claptrap I've ever seen:

• The Minoans weren't black, they were Anatolians (from modern-day Turkey). To quote one major source, "From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 BC": "We know, for example, that the first Neolithic settlers [of Crete, the Minoan homeland] journeyed with incredible courage over open sea from Anatolia."

• The Etruscans weren't black, they were Europeans. DNA studies, including one from 2004, have shown that the Etruscans had no significant heterogeneity in their gene pool, and that study says "all mitochondrial lineages observed among the Etruscans appear typically European or West Asian."

• Nor was King Tut likely black. A 2017 study found that from the DNA of the ancient Egyptian mummies studied, "ancient Egyptians closely resembled ancient and modern Near Eastern populations, especially those in the Levant, and had almost no DNA from sub-Saharan Africa," according to Science. That is, they were genetic cousins of the latter-day Arabs scorned by Lester.

Lester seems to base his conclusions on art. By that logic, Roman men were born with fig leaves, and 1920s French women had two noses and three eyes. When it came to skin tone, the Egyptians, Greeks, Minoans and Etruscans all followed the same artistic convention: Men were a ruddy red-brown, woman the whitest of whites. Egyptians themselves painted sub-Saharan Africans the darkest shade of black.

To accomplish his purpose with facts, Lester should have pointed out the black African king who conquered Egypt around 716 B.C. and annexed it to his kingdom of Nubia. But Lester's interest is not in history but in propaganda.

In the federal government, we already have one ideologue ignorant of history and more than willing to play fast and loose with the truth. We don't need another. Vote for someone else.

Stephen Partridge, Edina

When lamenting homeownership rates, lament structural racism

As our country continues to grapple with embedded systemic racism and begins to belatedly acknowledge that these systems have prevented black Americans in particular from ever fully participating in our economy, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as I read the Bloomberg Opinion piece in Monday's paper ("Millennials are facing ennui," Opinion Exchange).

The author calls out how homeownership builds wealth and laments the fact that millennials still don't own homes. While this is no doubt true, black Americans have been excluded from homeownership for generations via a long list of purposeful tools and policies including racial covenants in deeds, redlining and predatory practices targeted specifically to black borrowers. As a direct result, Minnesota today has one of the highest racial homeownership gaps in the country.

The fact that millennials are behind their generational peers when it comes to homeownership is worthy of discussion. But why is there so little conversation and concern around the low rate of homeownership in communities of color? Where are the calls for new ideas to address this crisis?

The piece continues on to discuss the importance of equitable wealth-building and concludes by calling on the government to think about policies to prevent millennials from becoming a "lost generation" of Americans "without a stake in the U.S. economic system," which "could lead not just to ennui, but to unrest." While some of these policies are worthy of open-minded consideration, I'd argue that the unrest the author hopes to avoid is most certainly already here for many of our fellow Americans.

Julie Gugin, Mendota Heights

The writer is president of the Minnesota Homeownership Center.


Brace for Big Oil's next move

Last week, Minnesota's attorney general filed suit against ExxonMobile Corp., Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for fraud, deceptive business practices and false advertising ("State sues oil firms over climate change," June 25). The basis for the suit is that they knew about how their products created the climate crisis and harmed our environment, and then they lied about it.

We can now prepare for a backlash and public-relations campaign from these companies similar to what the tobacco industry did with respect to smoking. Part of this campaign will be to activate our political differences against each other. It will smear the attorney general. It will claim "big green" is behind the suit. It will say that oil is good or that they are not to blame. Remember, tobacco companies didn't make you smoke those cigarettes. And again they will fail to take responsibility. Why?

Because the balance of power has shifted from citizens to whoever can spend the most on PR and lobbying holders of political office. According to OpenSecrets.org, the fossil-fuel industry has over 700 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., spending millions annually to get subsidies, tax incentives and suspension of environmental protections in return. This doesn't include their efforts in states like Minnesota.

It's time to take a look at the harm the fossil-fuel industry is causing to our climate and break this cycle of lying, deception and payoff before it's too late. When you hear them respond, remember what they are being sued for: lying.

Lee Hobart Stocking, St. Paul

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