I am an inner-city Minneapolitan and have been an avid birder for many years. I lived in Washington, D.C., for a number of years and moved back here in 2006. I was excited to resume birding here, but gave up after a few years because the migratory bird “season” seemed incredibly short.

Worse than that, this year I’m not hearing any songbirds. I bicycle whenever possible and traverse many neighborhoods that used to have singing birds, but I hear nothing in my travels now. In my direct neighborhood (approximately Bloomington Avenue S. and E. 42nd Street), there used to be at least some purple and gold finches. I loved the goldfinches on hot summer days, flitting high in the sky saying, “I love this weather!” None now.

Am I dreaming, or is this akin to the “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson? Do any birders monitor Minneapolis songbirds? I find this scenario very unsettling.

Ted Unseth, Minneapolis


Fight the perception that insects only cause trouble

Jim Williams (“Birds are a natural form of insect control,” On the Wing column, July 11) should take a basic course in entomology. (I’ve taken a few.) I’ve tried to fight his only-good-insect-is-a-dead-insect stance for a couple decades now, in part by bringing live aquatic insects into school classrooms for a hands-on learning experience emphasizing the beneficial role that insects in our moving waters play in stream ecology and keeping these streams clean and productive, in part for us to enjoy. I’ve done surveys under contract with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to look for specific butterflies on various Nature Conservancy and DNR prairie preserves, and on these surveys, and on visits on my own, I am constantly reminded of the important role insects play in any natural ecosystem. Pollination, control of invasive plants, parasitism of destructive insects — the list of beneficial activities of insects is endless. True, insects are small and easy to overlook, and, true, some insects do damage crops and carry disease. But to regard any insect killed and fed to a hatchling bird as a great benefit to the world (from the column: “that’s another 61,000 insects [dead]”) is a very myopic way to view the natural world. Or, sadly, what little remains of it.

Dean C. Hansen, Stillwater

The writer is an entomologist.


Those wanting to opt out should just consider fully participating

Prof. Kathleen Uradnik, who is suing to avoid paying a fee to the union that negotiates and administers her employment contract (“St. Cloud professor sues over union,” July 7), claims to be an expert in “American government, law, American political thought, constitutional law and civil rights,” but she apparently does not understand one very basic American value: democracy.

In a workplace, if more than half the workers vote to be represented by a union, the union is the exclusive bargaining agent for all the workers. It’s called majority rule. For many years, the law has allowed individuals to opt out of actually joining the union but has required them to pay a “fair-share” fee for the “core” services they receive. By law, no part of their fee could go to politics or other noncore activity.

The recent Janus decision by the Supreme Court would allow nonmembers to avoid the fair-share fee altogether, getting union services without paying for them. Perhaps Uradnik does not understand that freeloading is not a particularly American value. A strange twist in the professor’s complaint is that she has not been allowed to serve on union-controlled committees, when she is not a member of the union and thus ineligible to participate in its governance. It seems to me that the more “American” thing would be to pay her “taxes,” remain a “citizen” and work within the organization to change its policies.

Mark Bradley, Roseville


Here is the ethical framework we must bear in mind

Thank you for the recent coverage of the use of ketamine by paramedics for sedation of subjects during police calls without the subjects’ consent. I have been taking a summer class on biomedical ethics and reading news stories with a new lens. Recently we looked at Carl Elliot’s writing on drug trials in Mother Jones, and it was riveting! I was happy to see that he was consulted for the ketamine coverage as well (“Ketamine patients seeking answers,” June 24), and I am very interested to see what he would uncover in the Hennepin Healthcare trials. The hospital has asserted that its study of ketamine use is ethical, but mere assertions, as I am learning in my summer biomedical ethics class, are not enough to make it true.

Here are some things that bear consideration. Three general moral principles that bioethicists agree must be applied to human research are autonomy, which is respect for a person’s right for self-determination; beneficence, which is doing good and not harming a person; and justice, which is treating equals equally. The Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki both govern research in human subjects so that we do not repeat the horrors of the past. They both forbid enrolling people in research without their freely given informed consent. This requires time to educate on the possible risks and benefits of being in the study and respects the person’s right to make his or her own decision to participate. We need to shine a light on what is happening and make sure that we protect the rights of our citizens.

Heather Van Grootheest, Eagan


Grants to address bias are a good start toward fairness

The July 11 article “Grants to address racial bias in media coverage” highlights that there are indeed racial stereotypes in media. Historically, people of color have been misrepresented in media, thus perpetuating stereotypes instead of focusing on the news itself. The $250,000 in grants from the The St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations not only will change what types of news are covered but will help change journalists’ perception of others. This also begins the work of ensuring that the communities have a fair chance of an accurate representation.

In light of the recent events in our nation and during this divisive time, journalism needs to be the platform that brings people together. This isn’t to say we should hide any information from the public, but rather understand the power of storytelling and how that affects history.

Rachel Saefong, Oakdale


A fabulous design. Wouldn’t you like to know who did it?

How can you publish an entire article about the magical new Bell Museum (“Best of the Bell,” July 13) without mentioning the man who designed it?

That’s like writing a book review without mentioning the author.

The lead architect was David Dimond, a University of Minnesota alum and a St. Paul native son, and head of the design team in the Minneapolis office of Perkins+Will.

Lynette Lamb, Minneapolis


Maybe combine journalistic tropes and call it porngate

Can Star Tribune reporters stop using the word “porn” in connection with something good? On July 11, Neal Justin described the PBS television show “Kingdoms of the Sky” as “nature porn.” In previous Taste columns, food writers have referred to “food porn.” I know it seems innocuous and that we are used to hearing it. But it’s 2018, and we have graduated to the era of at least being aware of sex trafficking and the damage real pornography does in our communities and families. So let’s drop the word “porn” for a different word or phrase. How about “joy” or “delirium?” Any other ideas?

Elise Weinberg, St. Paul