The Superior, Wis., refinery explosion (“Fire nearly set off catastrophe,” April 28) was a “close call” that could have caused the release of hydrogen fluoride gas that would have threatened the lives of 180,000 people in that region. Superior Mayor Jim Paine’s words “the potential to be absolutely catastrophic” were chillingly reminiscent of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, in which an escaping lethal gas killed more than 3,000.

The explosion at Husky Energy ought to be a huge wake-up call not just to the refinery industry but to the entire Republican agenda of deregulation. While the exact cause of the blast has not yet been established, we do know that previous owners seemed to prefer paying relatively small fines for not being in compliance rather than ensuring compliance.

The deregulatory movement to get government off the backs of industry to maximize growth and profits assumes that industry will adequately regulate itself to provide adequate public health and safety. This fox-guarding-the-henhouse approach helps the fox, but leaves the public vulnerable. While regulations admittedly are sometimes excessively complex, they are generally there for a reason. The corporate culture — from President Donald Trump’s business and political approach on down — seems to make it OK to ignore pesky rules and regulations to maximize one’s own interests. As the Superior near-catastrophe reveals, it turns out that regulations — and regulatory bodies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency — really are helpful for us commonplace citizens.

Michael Haasl, Brooklyn Park


Change the name. But if not, display the full context.

I would like to see the name of Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School changed (“Patrick Henry may get the boot,” April 27). However, for some, to change a name is to change history, as if someone would cease to exist in the past if their name were taken off a building today. What happened in the past doesn’t change, but we can and do change the depth of our knowledge and understanding of history. So if the school’s name isn’t changed, here’s my suggestion for making sure all students, staff members and visitors have a more complete understanding of who Patrick Henry was in his own time.

Let’s put a sign in the hallway that includes all of these important facts about him (they are from a web posting by students from Marymount College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Scranton, Pa., that you can read here:

• He was a founding father who gave a speech with the line “Give me liberty or give me death!”

• He spoke and wrote against slavery as a repugnant and immoral practice and opposed the importation of more slaves.

• He treated his slaves somewhat better than other slave owners.

• In his lifetime, he owned about 80 slaves. He never freed any of them, even on his death.

The last thing that might be added to the sign I am proposing is a question based on the above facts: When Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death!” did he think “But do not give liberty to my slaves”? Or did he not think of them at all?

I applaud the people who want to see the name of this school changed, not just for their activism but also for their evident belief that those 80 now-nameless humans were and are as morally important as Henry.

Martha Rosen, Minneapolis

• • •

I am not sure I have a position on the Patrick Henry High name change. I am not an alumnus, nor really an interested party. However, I would like to remind the students that it was people like Mr. Henry, with all their faults, who gave us the country that allows these protests and requests. I do think that Henry and his associates should be remembered for that.

Peter T. Smyth, Eden Prairie


… school bus drivers

As the end of the school year approaches, it’s time to bring attention to heroes who are school bus drivers.

Not only are they required to safely get students to school despite other drivers cutting in front of the bus or going through the stop signals that the bus extends and flashes when children are getting on and off, but:

• They have to maintain order, even without seat belts to secure children in their seats (where they belong) while the bus is moving.

• They have to concentrate on driving, despite a noise level so loud — sometimes as many as 60 children at one time.

• And during the holidays, they have to clean up candy wrappers and candy littering the bus.

At the end of the school year, an occasional grateful parent will acknowledge the remarkable job done year-round. So, school bus drivers, this is my salute to you for a job well-done. You deserve it!

Mary Hertaus, Maple Grove

… foreign service

As someone who retired from the U.S. State Department (Foreign Service) after 21 years of service, I am proud to have been a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. However, I’m sometimes surprised at how little is generally known about America’s diplomats. We serve at 270 posts around the world, often in hard and sometimes dangerous places, working to protect America’s people, interests and values.

In 1996, the U.S. Senate designated the first Friday in May as “American Foreign Service Day.” It is on this day that members of the Foreign Service around the world and here at home come together to recognize and celebrate the thousands of people who commit their lives to serving the U.S. abroad and the impact their work has on us all. This year, that day is May 4. This week is therefore an ideal time for anyone interested in what diplomats do and why it’s important to learn more about the 16,000-member-strong U.S. Foreign Service.

I consider myself lucky that my colleagues are hard at work around the world, constantly seeking to promote U.S. policies, level the playing field for U.S. businesses, open markets for U.S. agriculture and achieve wins for America. With all the threats to U.S. security and prosperity out there, I hope my fellow citizens appreciate the U.S. Foreign Service and agree that, in order to maintain American global leadership, we must field a top-notch diplomatic team, or risk forfeiting the game to our adversaries.

Carol J. Emery, Northfield


… disconnected parents

I walk through a small neighborhood park nearly every day and sometimes stop into a local coffee shop. I would like to comment on parents and cellphones. Please, parents, please — just put the phone away for 5 minutes while you play or talk with your child. I cannot tell you how many little children I see gleefully trying to get the attention from their parent — calling “watch!” only to get a brief glance upward as the parent taps or talks away on their phone.

At the coffee shop, the child will busily mutter to themselves while enjoying their doughnut and hot chocolate.

My children are adults now, and I can vouch for the fact that the time flies by quickly. Ask your child about their day, laugh with them, watch them slide down the slide many times, ask who they talked to at lunch or if they remember their dreams.

Do it now, for soon they, too, will be with you, their own phone in hand, busily tapping away.

Pattie Gerr, Eagan